Trends in Biotechnology
First thing's first...what is it exactly? Biotechnology is a broad term used for the use of living systems and organisms in the creation and development of a product. From energy to medicine, agriculture to computing, today we're going to explore the possibilities and trends we're expecting to see in 2022.
Energy markets are plagued by environmental, social and economic factors that threaten security and price rises. Challenges like this, having consequences across the planet, ensure that start-ups focus their creativity and experience of facing up to them.
The bioenergy sector has been around for a long time, ever since an engine designer in 1937 envisaged vegetable oil being used as a fuel. Fast forward to the present day and things have become a bit more sophisticated. As countries move towards carbon-neutral economies, having a secure, reliable and sustainable energy mix is vital. Biotechnology is becoming more and more important to be able to achieve this goal.
The benefits of biofuels include the versatility of their production, which include:
- Purpose grown crops
- Woody biomass or agricultural waste/residues
As other areas of biotechnology innovate and advance, the technology can be helpful across the board. For example, gene editing and manipulating DNA has surprising applications for energy where synthetic biology (such as genetically engineered algae) is used to produce bio-oil. This oil, produced from air, water and sunlight can replace traditional oil that is carbon-intensive and harmful to the environment.
The uptake and investment in bioenergy is an exciting trend in biotechnology to watch in 2022.
With health and wellbeing under the spotlight, medicine is set to be a strong focus for startups and innovation in 2022.
Currently, medicines are trialled and tested to find formulations and dosages which are best suited to provide treatments to the population as a whole. However, with advances in genetics, it's becoming possible to provide bespoke medicines, specifically tailored to individuals in order to treat them based on their DNA. The DNA in each of us tells the story of how (or if) it will respond to illness, disease and medication. By mapping the human genome healthcare interventions become more targeted, making them more effective and improving outcomes for patients.
By understanding genes and the risk factors associated with them, healthcare on an individual level can become preventative rather than reactive. Where a person is understood to have the presence of certain genes, associated with cancer, for example, preventative treatments and diagnostics can be provided. This will be a strong focus for biotech throughout 2022.
The climate emergency is accelerating changes to land usage around the world, combined with a growing population this poses an appealing problem for startups to challenge.
Biotechnology has been present in agriculture for many years. You may remember headlines about genetically modified crops, or you may have seen food items labelled as “GM”. This gene-editing helps crops to become pest-resistant, be hardier in the face of the elements and improve yield. These are obvious improvements to make where farmers would traditionally have to use harmful and polluting pesticides in order to protect crops. While improved yields can help meet the demands of ever-increasing populations.
Biotechnology in agriculture has many crossovers to other sectors and can provide many benefits to consumers, such as:
- Creating crops richer in nutrients (better for you)
- Creating crops lower in toxins (not as harmful)
- Allowing crops to be grown in non-traditional areas (less intensive)
- Creating crops that remove pollutants from soil or the atmosphere
A safe abundant and sustainable food supply is essential, the use of technology to help find solutions to agricultural challenges will benefit us all economically and socially.
Since the first introduction of GM crops, this type of biotechnology has been used both safely and successfully, improving the health and welfare of populations across the globe. As biotech continues to develop, 2022 will see its importance grow.
4. Next generation computing technology
Startups and the creative teams behind them have always embraced new and future technologies, as the rate of technological innovation increases, expect startups to keep pace with how they apply it to solve problems.
The cutting edge of technology remains at the vanguard of biotechnology. As computing continues to be transformative, with the adoption of cloud computing and artificial intelligence, biotech companies are able to expand the possibilities and scale of research. This leads to many improvements, such as increased efficacy and a reduced time to take products to market.
With the advent of cloud computing, barriers for many innovative biotech companies are reduced or even removed. Having to purchase and run the type of computer hardware companies need to be able to store and analyse vast datasets, (often involved in medical trials), can be prohibitive. Having the ability to run simulations through the cloud instead allows companies to benefit by limiting operating expenses and frees up capital in order to fund new projects.
5. Food production
Amongst other applications to food production, there's a flurry of biotechnology startups aiming to reduce the impact that a carnivorous diet has on the planet.
There are many meat substitutes and alternatives, and the choice continues to grow as consumers become more climate-conscious.
Where biotechnology comes in, is lab-grown meat.
This is an alternative to traditional meat production which involves large amounts of methane being produced and requires the use of transport and chemicals, both of which are harmful to the environment.
Lab-grown meat is set to become a £bn sector in the UK. Who would have thought artificially cultivating muscle and fat tissues could be so appetising! This is a definite trend in biotechnology coming to the UK in 2022.
To sum up...
Biotechnology innovation and development will be important factors across the food, health, industry, and agriculture sectors in 2022 and beyond. Biotechnology can help humanity meet its existing and emerging challenges across the globe, providing exciting opportunities in new markets and technologies.
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