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.