Backgrounder: Industrial Biotechnology

March 5, 2013 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Industrial biotechnology (known mainly in Europe as white biotechnology) is the application of biotechnology for industrial purposes, including manufacturing, alternative energy (or “bioenergy”), and biomaterials.
It includes the practice of using cells or components of cells like enzymes to generate industrially useful products. The Economist speculated (as cited in the Economist article listed in the “References” section) industrial biotechnology might significantly impact the chemical industry. The Economist also suggested it can enable economies to become less dependent on fossil fuels.

The industrial biotechnology community generally accepts an informal divide between industrial and pharmaceutical biotechnology. An example would be that of companies growing fungus to produce antibiotics, e.g. penicillin from the penicillium fungi. One view holds that this is industrial production; the other viewpoint is that it would not strictly lie within the domain of pure industrial production, given its inclusion within medical biotechnology.

This may be better understood by calling to mind the classification by the U.S. biotechnology lobby group, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) of three “waves” of biotechnology. The first wave, Green Biotechnology, refers to agricultural biotechnology. The second wave, Red Biotechnology, refers to pharmaceutical and medical biotechnology. The third wave, White Biotechnology, refers to industrial biotechnology. In actuality, each of the waves may overlap each of the others. Industrial biotechnology, particularly the development of large-scale bioenergy refineries, will likely involve dedicated

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