Biotechnology: An Illustrated Primer
Biotechnology methods are among the oldest methods of mankind. In the 20th century, biotechnology developed as the main area of applied biosciences in modern societies. It plays a major role in agriculture, the food industry, the chemical industry and the pharma industry.
With its attractive layout including full color plates and explanatory text, the book “Biotechnology – An Illustrated Primer” is the ideal combination between rapid visual-based learning with in depth text information. The title covers the whole range of biotechnology, from microbiology, biochemistry, genetic engineering and cell biology to agricultural and environmental topics as well as safety and ethical aspects. Furthermore, essential information are provided about glycobiology, epigenetics and synthetic biology.
About the author:
Rolf Schmid studied chemistry at München and Freiburg University. After post-doctoral training in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, and Austin, Texas, he joined Henkel KGaA for industrial R&D on enzymes and lipid biotechnology. In 1987, he became Professor for Enzyme Technology at Braunschweig Technical University. In 1993, he became Professor of Enzyme Technology at Stuttgart University from where he retired in 2009. He holds an MBA and operates a Steinbeis Center for Asia Technology Consulting.
GIT: What is your main scientific interest?
Schmid: I have started out to study chemistry but quickly became attracted by biochemistry and microbiology. During my 40 years of professional life in industry and academia from 1970 to 2010, I was always interested in how to apply new results from the life sciences to technology, in particular to chemical synthesis using enzymes or microorganisms, and to analysis, using biological assays or biosensors. Fortunately, the applications of life sciences have blossomed during this period, bringing about many new technologies such as genetic engineering, cell engineering and bioprocess engineering, to mention just a few. As a result, a bioindustry has now emerged, and we are advancing towards a bio-economy which will eventually balance the footprint of mankind with the natural capacity of our planet.
GIT: What was the reason to write the book?
Schmid: Having taught biotechnology at a technical university, I was eager to introduce my students to the endless possibilities offered by the life sciences to improve medicine, diagnostics, food production and safety, environmental remediation and materials from industrial production processes.
In a ever more specialized world, I thought I should also try to provide a holistic picture of biotechnology’s many aspects in a concise manner.
GIT: What is the target audience for the book?
Schmid: Primarily the “late undergraduate” or “early graduate” who asks for a survey over biotech applications before opting for his or her preferred area of study and research. I understand, however, that also school teachers, patent attorneys or journalists have had profitable reading from their areas of interest provided in this book.
GIT: What knowledge is prerequisite for the book?
Schmid: A basic understanding of chemistry and biology at the high school level should be enough.
GIT: What is the structure of the book?
Schmid: The first third of the book introduces basics of microbiology, biochemistry, genetic engineering, cell biology and bioprocess engineering. This is followed by a concise description of current bio-products and bio-processes, ranging from industrial products such as bioethanol to technical enzymes, antibiotics, bio-pharmaceuticals, bioassays etc. This large section also includes introductions to biotechnology as applied to animal and plant breeding, environmental sanitation and metal leaching. The final section covers current megatrends such as genomic and post-genomic research, systems biology, cell engineering, the huge impact of bio-informatics, but also the emerging aspects of sustainable bio-production. At the end, bio-safety, bio-ethics, patents in biotechnology and regulatory aspects are outlined.
GIT: Which topic, in your opinion, has the biggest potential to have a positive impact on everyones life?
Schmid: Biotechnology is steadily advancing into most aspects of our lifes, such as agriculture, food, medicine, environmental sanitation and sustainable production of chemicals
GIT: Do you think there is a limit to what can be achieved using Biotechnology?
Schmid: Biotechnology is just one, if an important element of innovation in all fields mentioned above. I do not yet see a limit to progress in this field
GIT: How do you see the future of biotechnology in Europe, e.g. compared to Asia or the US?
Schmid: Europe will keep a strong position in academic developments concerning the life sciences, but more rapid translation to business in the USA and Asia will keep on to be a continuing challenge.