(1) Bioinformatics. Makes the rapid organization and analysis of biological data possible, via interdisciplinary approaches which address biological problems using computational techniques. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, "conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules, and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale." Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
(2) Blue biotechnology. Marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, used to improve cleanup of toxic spills, improve yields of fisheries, etc.
(3) Green biotechnology. Agricultural uses of biotechnology, such as the selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation, designing transgenic plants to grow under specific environmental conditions or in the presence (or absence) of certain agricultural chemicals, development of more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture (e.g., the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, thereby eliminating the need for external application of pesticides, like Bt corn). Among the benefits are crops with better taste, texture, appearance, aroma, nutrition, yield, robustness in adverse environmental conditions, and resistance to herbs, fungi, and pests.
(4) Red biotechnology. Application of biotechnology to medicine, including the designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genomic manipulation. Other areas:
(a) Drug production. Genetically altered mammalian cells, such as Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells, are also used to manufacture certain pharmaceuticals. Another promising new biotechnology application is the development of plant-made pharmaceuticals. A genetically engineered bacterium produces vast quantities of synthetic human insulin at relatively low cost. Biotechnology has also made it possible to cheaply produce human growth hormone, clotting factors for hemophiliacs, fertility drugs, erythropoietin, and other drugs.
(b) Pharmacogenomics. The study of how genetic inheritance affects an individual's response to drugs, in order to design tailor-made medicines adapted uniquely to each person’s genetic makeup, based on the proteins, enzymes and RNA molecules that are associated with specific genes and diseases, to optimize drug dosage, maximize therapeutic effects, and decrease damage to nearby healthy cells. Pharmacogenomics should also significantly expedite the drug discovery process.
(c) Gene therapy. Treating or even curing of genetic and acquired diseases like cancer and AIDS by using normal genes to supplement or replace defective genes, or to bolster a normal function such as immunity.
(d) Genetic testing. DNA “probes” can be injected that will bind to any mutated sequences in a human's genome, flagging the mutation. DNA sequences in a diseased patient can also be compared to healthy individuals in order to determine the genetic cause of a malady (e.g., carrier screening, confirmational diagnosis of symptomatic individuals, forensic/identity testing, newborn screening, prenatal diagnostic screening, presymptomatic testing for estimating the risk of developing disorders).
(e) Improved vaccines. Vaccines can be developed that will elicit the immune response without the attendant risks of infection, and that will be relatively inexpensive, stable, easy to store, and capable of being engineered to carry several strains of pathogen simultaneously.
(f) Biopharmaceuticals. By using computer-generated images of complex molecules such as proteins, the underlying mechanisms and pathways of a malady can be better understood and targeted.
(g) New medical therapies. Biotechnology has led to treatments for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, cancers, arthritis, haemophilia, bone fractures, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disorders.
(h) Diagnostics. The biotechnology industry has also been instrumental in developing molecular diagnostic devices that can be used to define the target patient population for a given biopharmaceutical. Herceptin, for example, was the first drug approved for use with a matching diagnostic test and is used to treat breast cancer in women whose cancer cells express the protein HER2.
(5) White biotechnology. Also known as industrial biotechnology. Exemplified by the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical, the use of enzymes as industrial catalysts to either produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals, and the development of biotechnological processes that consume fewer resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods.
(4) Bioeconomics. Investment in applied biotechnologies to increase economic output
(1) Loss of privacy. Medical and genetic information is more likely to be stored and shared.
(2) Discrimination. Private insurers, employers, and governmental entities are more likely to discriminate against people who have genetic or medical anomalies, especially if such information is available in databases.
(3) Cloning. Reproductive cloning could create "Frankensteins" or result in eugenic practices. Therapeutic cloning is also regarded as unethical by some groups, primarily religious organizations.
(4) Transformations of wild species. Exposure of wild species to genetically modified crops or domestic livestock could cause "super species" to evolve with resistance to pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.
(5) Loss of biodiversity. Development of genetically modified crops or domestic livestock could reduce genetic variety among both domesticated and wild species.
(6) Harmful chemicals. Although biotechnology will generate many new and valuable chemicals, some chemicals with unknown or damaging environmental impacts are likely to be developed.