WHAT IS BIOTECHNOLOGY?

This seems a simple enough question, but there is a wide range of possible answers depending on whom you ask. The simplest and broadest definition is that biotechnology is "applied biology," or the application of biological knowledge and techniques to develop products or otherwise benefit humans.

Sometimes the term is restricted to refer to the utilization of living organisms to make a product or run a process. According to this interpretations, age-old techniques used in agriculture, animal husbandry, cheese and wine production, etc., are all examples of biotechnology.

In recent decades, however, the term "biotechnology" has been more often applied to cutting-edge molecular or genomic biological applications where molecular or genetic material is manipulated to achieve a desired goal. Targeted drug discovery, DNA 'fingerprinting,' gene amplification and sequencing, and the use of recombinant DNA techniques to genetically 'engineer' organisms, are among the scientific endeavors that fall under this interpretation of the term.

To develop this web site, we have recognized the validity of both interpretations of the term, and have presented examples of biotechnology drawn from all corners of this diverse, multi-disciplinary field. In all cases, the focus of biotechnology is on the practical application of science to meet challenges or solve problems.

What is MARINE Biotechnology?

As you may have already surmised, marine biotechnology encompasses those efforts that involve the marine resources of the world, either as the source or target of biotechnology applications. This means everything from deriving a new cancer treatment from a deep-sea sponge to developing an innovative buoy system for monitoring ocean pollution. Like the broader field of biotechnology, marine biotechnology (marine biotech or MBT) can take very traditional forms, such as localized seaweed farming, and high-tech forms. The full range of genomic tools, for instance, is now being applied to such goals as determining precisely how a promising compound derived from a marine organism kills cancer cells.

For those looking for a more refined definition, one recent publication considers marine biotechnology as "the exploration of the capabilities of marine organisms at the whole, cell, or molecular level, to provide solutions to today's problems, with the use of technology to advance the understanding and accessibility of marine biological material."

Of course, answering more fully the question 'what is marine biotechnology?' is precisely what this website is designed to do. By providing a broad overview of the MBT field, with a focus on advances in human health and environmental health, alongside many more detailed glimpses of the ongoing activities in various specific research programs, we hope to accomplish just that.