How Biology Drives Biotechnology

Biology is a study of life and the basic unit of life is the cell. Biotechnology which is based on biology study the structure and the function of cells and uses this information to develop products. Researchers use their knowledge of genes, proteins and cell parts to determine the difference between diseased and healthy cells. They use their expertise on how to affect alterations in diseased cells, and then create unique medical diagnostics, devices and therapies.

Understanding Diseases Mechanisms:

Drug research and development (R&D) begins with an intensive study of underlying biology of specific diseases. Biotechnology produces medicines to treat a particular disease process. To design and develop new drugs, researchers must delve into the disease process involved. Certain pertinent queries in this respect are: How does a person get afflicted by the disease? Which particular cells become affected? Is this disease genetic? Is the cell turned off or on? Which proteins are being produced or not as compared to healthy cells? Whether the disease is caused by a Pathogen and what is the interaction between the pathogen and the involved person?

Note: [Biotechnology is one of the most R&D intensive industry in the world and the United States is the undisputed world leader]

In the early stage of drug development it is necessary to collate information on disease mechanism. Proper understanding of fundamental biology lead to effective therapies for the patients. Consider for instance autoimmune disorder. This disease symptoms occur when a person’s immune system reacts to attack proteins, tissues in the body leading to inflammation. Researchers concur that tumor necrosis factor (TNF) has a major role in regulating inflammation. That there is a surfeit of TNF production in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Excessive production of TNF is harmful to joints, skin, and other parts of the body. Biotechnology has helped to develop medicines to inhibit the activity of TNF.

Models for Studying Diseases:

One method is to collect samples of diseased cells and healthy cells and grow them using a method called Cell Culture. In this process the cells are incubated and fed with specialized growth media, whereby they divide and express genes in order to produce proteins. By observing this interaction between healthy and diseased cells, it is possible to comprehend the disease mechanism.

Another divergent approach is to study shared or similar genes and protein equivalents in other species. Since all the cells in organisms perform similar functions, genes and proteins found in humans are also found in other organisms. Function of human genes have been discovered by studying parallel genes in non-humans. It is due to this fact that we have understood how specific genes, and proteins direct the function of human cells-both healthy and diseased.

Note: [Computational biology involves computer science, applied mathematics and statistics]


This is a combination of biology, computer science and information technology into one set format. The basic principle of bioinformatics is to understand and develop biology. It throws the gauntlet to computer programmers to design innovative databases, so as to permit easy access to existing and new data. Volumes of scientific data is generated on a daily basis. Companies have analyzed and computed this data to study cell activity, and develop diagnostic tools, therapies and preventive medicines. Bioinformatics has become a boon for advance in Biotechnology and helps to focus on nucleotide sequences, genes and amino acid chains.


These are markers or substances that help to evaluate, and also measure normal biological processes, pertaining to disease conditions, treatment and intervention, Biomarkers reflect physiological indicators like blood pressure or heart rate. However, now molecule biomarkers are being used to evaluate prostate specific Antigens (PSA).  Elevated levels of PSA can indicate prostate cancer.

Note: [Comparative studies are being conducted in respect of genome structure and function in various species. Genomic sequences have helped to detect bacteria causing ESCHERICHIA COLI (E.coli), the yeast SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE, round worm CAENORHABDITIS ELEGANS, the fruit fly DROSOPHILA MELANOGASTER etc. Comparative studies using laboratory mouse and human genome are being conducted]

If the biomarker test indicates a positive strain, it can help to diagnose a disease and determine the treatment process. It also indicates prognosis i.e. how the disease will progress if not treated. This is a quantum leap in R&D for development of newer biotechnological diagnostic tools.

Note: [Genetic biomarkers are tests that study DNA fragments to ascertain the cause of disease or susceptibility to certain genetic disorders]

Research has indicated modification and changes in cellular activity, such as protein synthesis in multiple of diseases, conditions. Biomarkers help to specify disease progression and can be used as, a development tool for testing and drug discovery. A study in animal modules with Biomarkers can help to deduce effectiveness. In disease management. It indicates whether a drug is effective and at what dosage. Dose requirements may vary in patients as well as response to a specific drug.


A chain of proteins in an organism is called proteome. A study of this involves protein structure and function. Proteins control cellular function as a whole. It can help to indicate in any specific cell of an organism time, hormonal changes and stress. Proteomics research can specify all proteins involved in protein synthesis and protein folding in their exact 3-D shape. For effective functioning any small alterations or structural defects may result in protein disease.

Note: [More than 200 therapeutics and vaccines have been discovered by biotechnology including medicines for cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders like HIV/AIDS. Most of these products are therapeutic proteins.]

To understand the structure, function and interaction of proteins within cells is a facet of drug discovery. Proteins are responsible for normal or abnormal functioning which may result in a disease. The molecule named drug target brings about the necessary changes by hitting its target.

Cancer: From Biology to Treatment:

Bio-informatics is a pioneer in cancer research. It helps to analyze proteins and develop new remedies that influences specific cellular processes. Cancer biology explores all avenues of a cancer cell. The molecular basis determines methods to develop diagnostics and treatment. Cancer start with changes in one cell or multiple cells which reproduce in an uncontrolled manner. In healthy cells, division and growth are regulated. But cancer cells continuously divide creating an opportunity for mutations, which may be a result of environment or DNA replication. As the cell replicate and grow a mass (tumor) is formed, the cell breaks away from tumor to metastasize and spread in the bloodstream, or the lymphatic system of the body to create more tumors.

Cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Biotechnology has brought about significant hormone therapies, biologics and targeted therapies such as monoclonal antibodies.