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Biotechnology-introduction

Applications of Biotechnology

A GLANCE AT SOME BIOTECHNOLOGY PROSPECTIVE COUNTRIESEdit

Global Biotechnology gives an overview of the perspective of biotechnology in developing countries like:

Jordan

Iran

Pakistan

Maldives &

BIOTECHNOLOGY: A NEW DAWN IN THE WORLD OF APPLIED SCIENCESEdit

In the simplest and broadest sense, Biotechnology is a series of enabling technologies, which involves the manipulation of living organisms or their sub-cellular components to develop useful products, processes or services (McGloughlin and Re 2006 ). It dates back several thousand years to when people inadvertently discovered the usefulness of one-celled organisms like yeasts and bacteria. The ancient Egyptians, for example, used yeast to brew beer and to bake bread. Some 7,000 years ago in Mesopotamia people used bacteria to convert wine into vinegar. And ancient civilizations exploited tiny organisms that live in the earth by rotating crops in the field to increase crop yields. They didn't know why it worked: Theophrastus - an ancient Greek who lived 2,300 years ago - swore that broad beans left magic in the soil. It took another 2,200 years before a French chemist suggested in 1885 that some soil organisms might be able to 'fix' atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants could use as fertilizer (Offley 1991 ).


With the inception of biotechnology, it has maintained a close relationship with society. Although now most often associated with the development of remarkable drugs, historically biotechnology has been principally associated with food, addressing such issues as malnutrition and famine (Wiki: History of biotechnology ).

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21st CENTURY BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

(Keener et al. )
Experts in United States anticipate the world’s population in 2050 to be approximately 8.7 billion persons. The world’s population is growing, but its surface area is not. Compounding the effects of population growth is the fact that most of the earth’s ideal farming land is already being utilized. To avoid damaging environmentally sensitive areas, such as rain forests, we need to increase crop yields for land currently in use. By increasing crop yields, through the use of biotechnology the constant need to clear more land for growing food is reduced.


Countries in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere are grappling with how to continue feeding a growing population. They are also trying to benefit more from their existing resources. Biotechnology holds the key to increasing the yield of staple crops by allowing farmers to reap bigger harvests from currently cultivated land, while preserving the land’s ability to support continued farming.


Malnutrition in underdeveloped countries is also being combated with biotechnology. The Rockefeller Foundation is sponsoring research on “golden rice”, a crop designed to improve nutrition in the developing world. Rice breeders are using biotechnology to build Vitamin A into the rice. Vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in poor countries. A second phase of the project will increase the iron content in rice to combat anemia, which is widespread problem among women and children in underdeveloped countries. Golden rice, expected to be for sale in Asia in less than five years, will offer dramatic improvements in nutrition and health for millions of people, with little additional costs to consumers.


Similar initiatives using genetic manipulation are aimed at making crops more productive by reducing their dependence on pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation, or by increasing their resistance to plant diseases. Increased crop yield, greater flexibility in growing environments, less use of chemical pesticides and improved nutritional content make agricultural biotechnology, quite literally, the future of the world’s food supply.


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BIOTECHNOLOGY STATUS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIESEdit

(CGIAR)

In recent years, biotechnology has been considered as an essential tool for socio economic development by an increasing number of developing countries. Yet, if anything, as the science frontier of the technology is advancing at an ever accelerating pace, commercial entry into modern biotechnology for most developing countries is rapidly moving away. Globally, biotechnology science has been profoundly influenced by two factors, namely, the drastic reduction of public funds for research and the dominant role of the private sector in biotechnology R&D for health care, agrifood and other industrial applications. The compound effect of these factors has been that technological advancement has remained stagnant in those areas that have been deemed unattractive in terms of returns on investment.


These are precisely those areas that are of prime importance for developing countries (e.g. orphan crop and infectious disease research) and in which biotechnology can have a profound effect. Despite this, donor and technical support agencies have been reluctant to redirect part of their investments away from other conventional types of technology assistance towards biotechnology. The reason that is often invoked is the lack of an enabling environment in most developing countries which would translate biotechnology R&D or import products and services into community level benefits.


However, it is becoming increasingly evident that conventional programs addressing health care and agricultural productivity needs in the developing world are becoming dependent on biotechnology to enhance their delivery prospects and benefit impacts. Clearly, in developing countries, biotechnology R&D is not the be all and end all. It needs to be coupled with actions to strengthen adoptive capacity (i.e., introduction of information and other key technologies) and to introduce policy and institutional reforms, conducive to public and private investment.


The reason for this is that the ability of developing countries to use biotechnology for public good depends primarily on their capacity to absorb and adapt proprietary technology to their specific needs. Policies with regard to intellectual property protection, increasing scope for intervention, and biosafety are essential in generating an enabling environment for the application of biotechnology. International agencies have an increasing role to play in identifying areas where the interests of the private sector and the aspirations of developing countries are not mutually exclusive and forge public-private partnerships in these areas.


Some of the countries like Jordan, Iran, Maldives and Pakistan are still on the verge of being developed. Current status of biotechnology in these countries is considered to the frontier area offering a new technological base for the provision of solutions to some of mankind's problems. Biotechnology has advanced rapidly in major industrial countries. But developing countries mentioned earlier still lags behind in this field due to number of reasons. Despite these reasons, Jordan, Iran, Maldives, Pakistan etc have made some progress in biotechnology projects for research and development.


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JORDAN: CURRENT STATUS OF BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

Map Jordan small

Map of Jordan

Jordan is one of Arab countries; the total population is 5.9 million in 2008, and the unemployment rate 12.9% according to Central Bank of Jordan in 2010, which means more than 450 000 persons without job, the prevalence of poverty is 14% (World Bank data source), with USD 10135 million indebtedness near to 101.1% of Goss Domestic Product (Kenawy 2009). These facts have summoned biotechnology immediately to solve many of problems biding Jordan. The application of biotechnology offers new opportunities, and leads to decrease the unemployment rate and support the nation budget.


The National centre for Biotechnology (NCB) is an internet-based virtual center which provides a biotechnology database for jordan and the middle eastern region. Its main role is to create and expand a knowledge map in biotechnology. It assists in financing cooperative research and helps in organizing brainstorm sessions to develop ideas among biotechnologists. It also provides a platform for the interaction beneficial interactions of academic institutions and commercial companies in the country. It is currently supporting

researches on Isolation and Molecular Identification of Infectious Bronchitis Virus serotypes from commercial chickens in Jordan, Expression of bioactive human interferon –gamma in transgenic tobacco plant, Derivation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae baker’s yeast mutants with lysine overproduction properties and The Induction of genetic mutation in Akub (Gundeia Tournefortii) from Jordan. (NCB )


Also among the institutions is the Princess Haya Biotechnology Center (PHBC) establisished by Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) in 2005. This institution focuses on investments into human resources, training and preparing students for careers in the field through six research groups. These groups currently consist of Genomic, Pharmacogenetics, Metabolomic, Theraputic Drug Monitoring, Protomics, and Microbiology.


The researches currently undertaken by these groups include; Detection and Identification of Urinary Protein Biomarkers of Bladder Cancer, the Isolation of molecules capable of stopping hair growth from specific desert animals called (JERBOA) and the Biomarker associated with the mutational Cystic Fibrosis Disease. (University of Jordan ). Another institute is the King Hussein Institute for Cancer and Biotechnology established in 2006 to make Jordan a regional medical center. It focuses in early check-up for cancers as a part of health care and in addition, has specialized Biotechnology research center. (www.khibc.jo) (USAID, 2007).


Furthermore, a number of applied sciences programs are available in certain universities in Jordan. The University of Jordan offers these programs through its Department of Biology, Department of Animal Production, Department of Nutrition and Food Technology, Department of Water and Environment, and Department of Agriculture. It has focused on researches such as Biotechnological systems for secondary metabolites production from Hawthorn (Crataegus Azarolus L.), Production of novel monoclonal antibodies that distinguish between cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, Toxicity of Jordanian zeolitic nano tuff and other engineered nanoparticles to the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The university offers these programs both in the degree and postgraduate levels. (University of Jordan)


Another university is the Hashemite University established in 1995. It offers a first science degree in Biological program focusing on application of the biosciences to human and animal health, agriculture, environment, and industrial problem (Hashemite University ). Also on the list is the Philadelphia University established in 2000. Its faculty of Biotechnology and genetic engineering focuses in Molecular Biology, Recombinant DNA, Protein engineering, Immunology, genetics, Animal and Plant tissue culture.It offers a first degree program (www.philadelphia.edu.jo). National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE) is also provided some of bioagricultural research programs such as Biodiversity, Genetic Resources and Medical Plants program which including Gene bank database. (National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension )


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PERSIA: A CRADLE OF SCIENCEEdit

Persia was a frame of science in the past. Persian scientists were working on the current understanding of nature, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. And also they made important contributions to algebra and chemistry, invented the wind-power machine, and the first distillation of alcohol. Many individual Iranian scientists, along with the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences and Iranian Academy of Sciences, are involved in this revival.

Iran has made significant advances in education and training, in spite of international sanctions in almost all aspects of research during the past 30 years. Iran's university population swelled from 100,000 in 1979 to 2 million in 2006. 70% of its science and engineering students are women (Nature 2006 ). Iran has made great strides in different sectors, including aerospace, nuclear science, medical development, as well as stem cell and cloning research (Wikipedia ).

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IRAN: A GLANCE AT BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

Iran map iran

Map of Iran

Persia has originated Qanat (a water management system used for irrigation) in pre-Achaemenid. City of Gonabad has the oldest and largest known qanat,which after 2,700 years, still provides drinking and agricultural water to nearly 40,000 people (Ward English 1968 ).

First battery (sometimes known as the Baghdad Battery) has been created by Persian philosophers and inventors in the Parthian or Sassanid eras. It has been suggested that the batteries may have been used medicinally. Maybe these batteries were used for electroplating—transferring a thin layer of metal to another metal surface—a technique still used today and the focus of a common classroom experiment (BBC News 2003 ).

The Babylonians developed Windwheels 1700 BC to pump water for irrigation. In the 7th century, Persian engineers in Greater Iran developed a more advanced wind-power machine, the windmill, building upon the basic model developed by the Babylonians (Wikipedia ).

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NANOTECHNOLOGYEdit

Iran ranking is the 25th in the world in Nanotechnology in 2007 with highest, ranked paper citation international mean, among all Islamic countries and only second to S.Korea in Asia (NATURE|VOL 430 | 15 JULY 2004 | ). But now Iran is the 15th (2010) in the world ranking (Bernama 2009). In 2007 Iranian scientists at the Medical Sciences and Technology Center succeeded in mass producing an advanced scanning microscope—the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) (Computer World 2009).


BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

Agricultural research has been successful in releasing high yielding varieties with higher stability as well as tolerance to unkind weather conditions. The agriculture researchers are working jointly with international Institutes to find the best procedures and genotypes to overcome produce failure and to increase yield. In 2005, national authorities approved Iran's first genetically modified (GM) rice and this rice is being grown commercially for human consumption. In addition to GM rice, several GM plants in the laboratory has been produced by Iran, like insect-resistant maize; cotton; potatoes and sugar beets; herbicide-resistant canola; salinity- and drought-tolerant wheat; and blight-resistant maize and wheat(BBC Persian 2006). Iran's first cloned animal was engineered by The Royan Institute; the sheep was born on August 2, 2006 and has passed the critical first two months of his life (Middle East Online 2006)(Bioregio-stern).


MEDICINEEdit

Iran’s practice and study of medicine has a long and prolific history. Situated at the crossroads of the East and West, Persia was often involved in developments in ancient Greek and Indian medicine; pre- and post-Islamic Iran have been involved in medicine as well.

For instance, Academy of Gundishapur in the Persian Empirethe was the first teaching hospital where medical students methodically practiced on patients under the supervision of physicians. Some say that: "to a very large extent, the credit for the whole hospital system must be given to Persia" (Wikipedia ).

The idea of xenotransplantation dates to the days of Achaemenidae (the Achaemenian dynasty), as evidenced by engravings of many mythologic chimeras still present in Persepolis (Broumand .B; 2005).

Several documents still exist from which the definitions and treatments of the headache in medieval Persia can be ascertained. Detailed and precise clinical information on the different types of headaches are given by these documents. The medieval physicians listed various signs and symptoms, apparent causes, and hygienic and dietary rules for prevention of headaches. The medieval writings are both accurate and vivid, and they provide long lists of substances used in the treatment of headaches. Today many of the approaches of physicians in medieval Persia are accepted; however, still many of them could be of use to modern medicine (Gorji A, 2002)

In the 10th century work of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi describes a Caesarean section performed on Rudaba, during which a special wine agent was prepared by a Zoroastrian priest and used to produce unconsciousness for the operation (Wikipedia ). Although largely fabulous in content, the passage shows working knowledge of anesthesia in ancient Persia.


Later in the same century is considered the founder of practical physics and the inventor of the special or net weight of matter. The first comprehensive medical book in Persian language was written by Abu Bakr Joveini, , Abu Bakr Muhammad Bin Zakaria Razi’s student.

Medicine continued to flourish with the rise of notables such as Rhazes and Haly Abbas, albeit Baghdad was the new cosmopolitan inheritor of Sassanid Jundishapur's medical academy After the Islamic conquest of Iran.

An idea of the number of medical works composed in Persian alone may be gathered from Adolf Fonahn's Zur Quellenkunde der Persischen Medizin, published in Leipzig in 1910. Over 400 works in the Persian language on medicine is listed by the author, excluding authors such as Avicenna, who wrote in Arabic. Also the names of at least 80 oculists have been recorded by Author-historians Meyerhof, Casey Wood, and Hirschberg who contributed treatises on subjects related to ophthalmology from the beginning of 800 AD to the full flowering of Muslim medical literature in 1300 AD.

Abu Mansur Muwaffaq's Materia Medica, written around 950 AD, and the illustrated Anatomy of Mansur ibn Muhammad, written in 1396 AD are two other medical works which attracted great attention in medieval Europe.

When Joseph Cochran established a medical college in Urmia in 1878, modern academic medicine began in Iran. Cochran is often credited for founding Iran’s "first contemporary medical college"(Yourdshahian ). "Lowering the infant mortality rate in the region" is created by the website of Urmia University (Wikipedia ).


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PAKISTAN: DEVELOPING A NEW BIOTECHNOLOGICAL WORLDEdit

(Shazia 2007 )

The importance and potential of biotechnology was realized as far back as 1959 when Pakistan's first Commission on Science and Technology

Mapofpakistan

Map of Pakistan

emphasised the need for setting up research organisations in areas of vital importance to national development. Biotechnology has since been promoted in practically every science policy document. Pakistan's commitment to this field has been reflected in a separate allocation of the development budget to biotechnology in the Eighth and Ninth five year Plans.


Pakistan’s first National Commission on Biotechnology was established in 2001 as an advisory body to the Ministry of Science and Technology to monitor new developments in the field of Biotechnology at National and International levels and to recommend appropriate measures for the benefit of the country. The Commission has been working in partnership with the Government, Biotechnology Institutes and Professionals to improve the lives of individuals by providing technical assistance, technology sharing, and information resources. There have been a total of thirty institutes listed under the National Commission of Biotechnology in Pakistan. But the country’s major biotechnology research institute ever established, which is concentrating on research into plant, environmental, and medical biotechnology is the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE).


NIBGE has produced some impressive results in a short time in the agricultural and other biotechnological fields. Most recently scientists at the Institute have found a biotechnology-based solution which may help to eliminate Pakistan's recurring cotton leaf-curl virus (CLCV), which has been a recurring problem NIBGE undertook a rewarding programme of reclaiming nearly 11 million acres of saline and sodic soils by biological methods. This technology developed by NIBGE has now been exploited by the International Atomic Energy Agency for initiating an integrated model project for eight countries. NIBGE is also researching the use of biotechnology to extract minerals and fossil fuels. It has developed methods to extract copper and uranium using bacteria. This technique has potential applications in the development of the Saindak mines in Baluchistan, Pakistan’s biggest copper mining project.


The National Commission of Biotechnology has initiated several broad, high scope projects for various fields of biotechnology and NIBGE has been playing an important role in carrying out research in various fields of Biotechnology. With the further development of biotechnology sector, Pakistan has broadened its research work in different fields of Biotechnology. In contrast to this, the various fields of biotechnology where the National Commission of Biotechnology of Pakistan has increased its focus includes: Agricultural Biotechnology, Industrial Biotechnology, Health Biotechnology and Environmental Biotechnology.


AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

(NIBGE )

The green revolution brought prosperity and food security but is not sufficient to ensure future food requirement for a country like Pakistan where population growth rate is very high. With limited land and water resources the only option left is to enhance food and fiber production by input of technology. With the introduction of biotechnology in Pakistan, scientists have and are utilizing the diverse genetic resources to improve agricultural sector of the country in order to enhance both the quantity and quality of food and fibre demands. Scientists have branched out the agriculture field in to different areas, out of which, one of the most emerging area under research is the application of plants in energy sector as well as healthcare of population.


Activities in the Agricultural Biotechnology Division are aimed at use of modern molecular methods to understand problems that limit crop productivity, isolate relevant gene(s) that can confer novel agronomic traits, transform those genes in crop plants and characterize engineered plants under glasshouse and field conditions. Development and utilization of DNA markers for marker-assisted selection of desirable plants is another approach that has been used to develop superior plant varieties. The program is ultimately aimed at characterization and enhancement of germ plasm resources in the country which is vital for maintaining competitive edge of the country in agriculture sector and safeguard National interest in WTO regime. Another research aspect is the establishment and utilization of Genomics and Proteomics tools for understanding of key pathways important for crop productivity. These activities are expected to enhance crop productivity, reduce cost of production and reduce losses by disease and insects. The Agricultural Biotechnology Division of Pakistan also serves as receiving unit for technologies developed elsewhere using molecular tools for the benefit of scientific community and agriculture sector.


INDUSTRIAL BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

(NIBGE )

Biotechnology is at the vanguard of new methods for the efficient and clean production of biological materials and chemicals. These environmentally friendly processes utilize the power of biology to make antibiotics, enzymes, proteins and chemicals for commercial uses. Economical production using biological systems is not always simple and has to be performed safely and reliably. The industrial biotechnology department of Pakistan at NIBGE aims to investigate and develop innovative systems, so as to intensify and simplify the control of bioprocesses ensuring safe, reliable and cost-effective production and recovery of biologically derived material. Because bioprocesses use living material, they offer several advantages over conventional chemical methods of production: they usually require lower temperature, pressure, and pH; they can use renewable resources as raw materials; and greater quantities can be produced with less energy consumption.


HEALTH BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

(NIBGE )

The health related work was initiated in Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission for NIBGE at Biomedical Division at Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Oncology Lahore, soon after the approval of planning commission 1 in 1988. Later, with the establishment of NIBGE at National Institute of Agricultural Botany Campus, Faisalabad in 1991, the Health related work was initiated in Basic Biology Division. With the passage of time and in the interest of NIBGE, the name of this division was changed to Basic Biology and Molecular Medicine Division and finally to Health Biotechnology Division (HBD). A separate new block of HBD was established in 1999.


The objective of health biotechnology department is to enhance the health and high quality of every Pakistani individual by providing diagnostic service, teaching and conducting research in laboratory medicine using cutting edge biotechnological approach. The research objectives of the health biotechnology department cover:

  • Molecular epidemiology of viral hepatitis, typhoid, enterobacter pathogens and tuberculosis
  • Identification, characterization of biologically immunogenic protein antigens for development of modern vaccine and diagnostic kits
  • Finding protein-based biomarkers for disease diagnosis.
  • Linkage analysis of monogenic genetic disorders
  • PCR-DNA based molecular diagnostic services (commercial aspect)


HBD at NIBGE focuses its efforts on the early detection of infectious and genetic diseases prevalent in Pakistan. The division forges tools that are preferably applicable where sophisticated technology support is lacking, and are for the benefit of people with limited means. Research aims at the application of these tools for diagnosis of diseases in clinical setting and for the epidemiological investigations. In the past ten years, this division has made good national and international collaborations with R&D institutions, pharmaceutical industries in its efforts to develop and evaluate methods for the detection of infectious and genetic diseases and production of recombinant therapeutic agents and vaccines.


The first PCR-based diagnostic test was made available for public in 1995 after research and validation on Pakistani population and comparing results with conventional techniques. A number of seminars were delivered to the medical community to introduce the molecular tests for early diagnosis of diseases prevalent in Pakistan. A hard, concerted effort was made by the scientist working at HBD and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) authorities to convince the medical community to consider and apply the new molecular tests and approaches as a useful tool for better diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of patients. The scientists working in this of division are providing diagnostic services to the patients and general public since 1995. The tests being performed in this division are as below:


  • DNA/ PCR based test for the detection of tuberculosis, hepatitis B,hepatitis C, typhoid, bcr-abl translocation, detection of mutaions in β-thalassemia and male infertility in clinical samples.
  • Detection of chromosamal abnormalities by karyotyping.


In-house PCR based tests need strict quality assurance and quality control measures to provide accurate and specific results. Health biotechnology team at NIBGE is an active member of the Regional Programme of IAEA, Vienna Austria for “Molecular Diagnosis of Infectious Diseases”. The validation of In-house PCR test was conducted in collaboration with IAEA associated laboratories. Based on the expertise developed by scientists at HBD, we have developed NIBGE-One Step HBV-DNA PCR Kit for the detection of hepatitis B virus infection in clinical samples. After accessing the capabilities of HBD scientists and laboratory environment in In-house PCR diagnostics, IAEA nominated the scientists of HBD as consultants and expert in this area. In addition to this, IAEA has now started sending persons from other countries to have training in molecular diagnostics at HBD, NIBGE.


ENVIRONMENTAL BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

(NIBGE )

Main aim of Environmental Biotechnology Division is development, use and regulation of biological systems for monitoring & remediation of contaminated environments (land, air, water) and pollution control. Other important research areas are genotoxicity testing and molecular detection of animal pathogens and provision of related training, services & facilities. Presently, following are mainly ongoing research and development activities at Environmental Biotechnology Division of NIBGE:

  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Bioremediation and Biodegradation
  • Environment Toxicology and Mole
  • Environment Testing Services


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MALDIVES: GRASPING THE MODERN BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

As with most of the developing countries, Maldives observed the potential development advantages through modern biotechnology.

Map-region-maldives-big

Map of Maldives

Even though, the technology is still at a dormant stage to this day, Biotechnology holds a great potential to improve the economy and the living standards in the Maldives. Today, tourism industry is the largest economic contributor to the economy of the country, followed by Fisheries industry. Agriculture and manufacturing play a lesser role in the economy, because of the poor soil and scarce arable land, thus, most staple foods must be imported. Applications of biotechnology can increase food productivity and its nutritional quality. Furthermore, Maldives is surrounded by the gigantic ocean with a wide biodiversity thereby holding an important prospective in the field of biotechnology (Graff et al., 2006; Tramper et al., 2003). However, to begin and establish biotechnology in the Maldives requires extensive analysis in terms of economic development, public policy, rural sociology, agriculture and environment.


IMPEDIMENTSEdit

There are three main issues that require to be dealt with before prospective biotechnology can be applied in the Maldives.

  • Institutional and technological capability: Maldives lack the institutional requirements to facilitate advanced technologies. Yet, it can be achieved by reinforcing legal standards and property rights laws to protect new technologies that are developed by both public and educational institutes. This would also aid in technology transfer between Maldives and foreign countries.
  • Financial capacity: The need for financial resources or lack of funding to invest in the research and development is one the major problems faced by Maldives. However, by imposing Intellectual Property rights, it may facilitate foreign investments in terms of both human capital and funds.
  • Expertise and human capital: Large investments on higher educations and training programmes are important to meet the required human capital. As to keep up with the current pace of advancing technology and new skills, it is also important to have continuous training programmes.

AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

Only a few crops, such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions are grown in the country. The main problems faced in the development of agriculture in the Maldives are the lack of cultivable land and the lack of effective quarantine or integrated pest management measures and there by having no means in protecting the crops from various diseases. At the same time, agriculture is also facing global challenges such as meeting the growing demand for food by reducing poverty and malnutrition, plus sustaining the natural environment (Graff et al., 2006). While at a national level, it is important to consider factors such as poverty alleviation and food security programmes, as the majority of the population lives in the rural areas where their income largely depends on agriculture. However, agricultural biotechnology holds a great promise in creating new jobs and may be of high economic benefit to the country.


Of the 1,100 islands, only about 200 islands are inhibited and remaining islands are uninhibited and may provide as land for the agricultural biotechnology. Agricultural biotechnology can be used in both plant improvement and soil fertility. Furthermore, recycling the agricultural wastes can be used as an organic fertilizer and in the production of animal feed.


With the incorporation of biotechnology with agriculture, economic losses due to pest, fungal and bacterial infections in plant products may be avoided by taking protective measures (Dasilva and Taylor 1998 ).


MARINE BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

The sea, surrounding the Maldives island nation has long been one of the main sources of food and energy, and is also used for transport and communication. The sea and beaches is seen as an immense inspiration for literature and art.


This massive and biologically diverse natural resource can be used in research and development in the fields of marine pharmaceuticals, genetic engineering of marine animals and plants for food production. For example, marine algae are well known for the production of important chemicals and medicines, and also as food for humans and domestic animals. Algae are also used as a natural fertilizer in agriculture. In addition to this, fish breeding and cultivation can also be done. Thus, this offer prospects for immediate and long-term economic benefit for the country.


At present, Maldives is involved in aquaculture field which mainly focuses on shrimp farming and ornamental fish culture. However, nothing much was done, except for tissue culture based micropropagation of ornamental aquatic plants and detection of white spot disease in prawns (National Biosafety Framework for The Republic of Maldives, 2006).

MEDICAL BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

People in Maldives have benefited from the global developments of this technology through diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines produced by foreign and multi-national companies. However, all these items are imported from foreign manufacturers, draining large amounts of foreign exchange annually, for use by both government and private sector patients.


Every year hundreds of blood donors, clinic attendees of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and others are tested for the presence of syphilis, Hepatitis B and HIV infection in Government hospitals in Maldives, using commercial test kits based on biotechnology. Although blood donors should ideally be tested for Hepatitis C, this is not done in the Government hospitals at present due to financial constraints. Many more infectious diseases in Maldives need better diagnostics, majority of which are developed by biotechnology based industries.


Diabetes is a growing problem in Maldives. Those with Insulin dependent diabetes need treatment with insulin. The recombinant human insulin, which has hardly any side effects, is costly. This forces many patients to take animal insulin that has many undesirable side effects. If recombinant insulin could be produced in Maldives, the cost could be reduced making it available for many more patients.


At present, private sector has taken up the challenge of producing medicinal herbal products on a large scale, but these need better efficacy and toxicity studies, and quality control methods for which biotechnology could be easily applied. The undertaking of contract research for foreign pharmaceutical companies is likely to improve hospital infrastructure, provide valuable experience to medical staff and enable access to new drugs to local patients. A few small clinical trials based on personal contacts have been undertaken in the country but there is a need to take an overall view of this under a national organization.


It is now timely to plan how this technology and its potential clinical applications can be made available for the people of Maldives at an affordable price adhering to all safety and ethical norms (National Biosafety Framework for The Republic of Maldives, 2006 ).

FOOD BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

The biggest concern related to modern food biotechnology is the genetic modification (GM) in food production and in agriculture. However, food biotechnology has being rising in both developing and developed world, because of the extensive benefits that can be obtained from it. There is rapid research and development on genetic modification of crops and other agricultural products for nutritional and health advantages in the final food product. These ‘functional foods’ and ‘nutriceuticals’ increase nutrient values in both human food products and animal feed. In addition to this, food biotechnology on GM of microorganisms to enhance production of enzymes for use in food production is the most widely used application in the industry.


Apart from nutritional benefits, food biotechnology can also be applied crops modification for various agronomic traits. These include herbicide resistance and insect resistance in crops such as maize and virus resistance modification in potatoes. Further to this, GM as been used to increase the shelf life of various food and agricultural products as such as tomatoes and potatoes. Most of these applications are utilized in the world and can be of great importance to the Maldives as it would enable to create not only jobs, but also to provide better nutritional benefits to the whole population of the country.



Although food technology based industry is developing steadily in the Maldives, it is still far from reaching the modern biotechnology in the food industry. Maldives still requires effective methods for assessment of food quality, perhaps by molecular methods. Since GM food has become a controversial issue in the population, it is also important to install mechanisms to test for genetically modified food (National Biosafety Framework for The Republic of Maldives, 2006 ).


ANIMAL BIOTECHNOLOGYEdit

Biotechnology has the potential to play a significant role in animal productivity, by enhancing nutritional quality of animal products, animal welfare and disease diagnostics. It has been noted that investments on this area should be made by considering any possible environmental risks, identifying research priorities and determining cost effectiveness.


Currently not much practical applications related to animal biotechnology has reached, but is focused on research and teaching. The development of the livestock industry in Maldives falls under the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources. It is directly responsible for the control of livestock diseases, livestock research, training of trainers in animal husbandry, preparation of project proposals for developing the industry and implementing special developmental programs covering the whole island. Important biotechnology areas that can be applied in the Maldives include artificial insemination, vaccine productions, starter cultures and probiotics, and the use of exogenous enzymes in animal feed (National Biosafety Framework for The Republic of Maldives, 2006 ).


BIOINFORMATICSEdit

There are at best only a handful of scientists in the country knowledgeable on Bioinformatics. There is no central facility in the country that has appropriate international data or can provide access to the necessary software to potential researchers. Thus, it is obvious that investments are required to make to develop a central bioinformatics facility and train competent human resource in this field (National Biosafety Framework for The Republic of Maldives, 2006).


Recent bioinformatics publications indicate that integrative analysis approaches will dominate the future of bioinformatics. The main reasons for facilitating a bioinformatics system in the country includes assisting in organizing the data in a way that allows researchers to access existing information and to submit new findings as they are introduced. The vast amounts of data stored in these databases needs to be analyzed, thus bioinformatics helps in the development of tools and resources that aid in the analysis and interpretation of data in a biologically setting.


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PROSPECT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIESEdit

JORDANEdit

Biotechnology in Jordan is still in the primary steps due to many obstacles, so it needs more years to become a regional centre in the Middle East. Jordan needs to create a suitable environment for researchers to keep them in homeland, and find out good opportunities for undergraduates students, more importantly it should provide academic funds to develop the Biotechnology field. It will also help the economy of Jordan and improve the lifestyle for Jordanians.


IRANEdit

The publication rate of Iranian scientists in international journals has quadrupled over the past decade. More than 30 percent of publications belong to the field of chemistry alone. In fact, Iranian scientific output has skyrocketed since 1993, placing the country well ahead of most of the Islamic countries (currently second after Turkey). Meanwhile, the average impact factor of the Iranian papers has also risen considerably.


The admirable advances in the field of science and technology, brought about after the Islamic revolution of 1979 in the country, have transformed Iranian lives in a multitude of ways. This is quite evident in almost every facet of human endeavor, including the economy, health, transportation, communication, agriculture, engineering, and so forth. In the current 20-year perspective of Iran, science and technology are considered an imperative for sustainable national development, with the national goal of self-sustainment in all scientific fields.


During the past two decades, the extensive high-level research in the chemical and biological sciences together with the outstanding promotion of scientific activities by the Iranian Chemical Society and Iranian Biological Society have also strongly influenced the promotion of their interfacial sciences, including biological chemistry, biotechnology, nanoscience, and nanotechnology. During this period, the government of Iran has increased investments in support of fundamental and applied research throughout the country and especially in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology. According to the fourth social, economic, and cultural development plan, nanotechnology is one of Iran’s priorities in technology. The government has established a special committee for nanotechnology development (National Committee for Nanotechnology), which is headed by (MOJTABA SHAMSIPUR ).


PAKISTANEdit

(NIBGE )

The laboratories present at NIBGE, such as Plant Genome Resource Laboratories have developed several complimentary DNA libraries that are being used to identify fiber and disease related genes in cotton. The Genome Mapping Laboratories is working on rice as a model system. The Plant Genomics and Molecular Breeding group is working on DNA fingerprinting technology, molecular markers, cotton genomics and use of molecular markers in crop breeding. The Proteomics and Stress Group is using genomic approaches to identify stress related proteins. A new group has been organized to initiate work on improvement of wheat through genetic engineering. The tissue culture laboratory is working on commercial production of seed potato. The insect molecular biology works on molecular characterization of important insects and understanding of novel technologies developed by NIBGE for control of insects. The Division is also providing services for Genetically Modified Organisms detection and other World Trade Organisation related requirements for export of agricultural commodities.


Division Research Groups include:

  • Gene Isolation
  • Gene Transformation
  • Molecular Analysis
  • Gene Expression/ Bioassays/ Biosafety
  • Plant Microbiology
  • Chloroplast Biotech and Biopharming


The many potential uses of biotechnology are developed through laboratory procedures that generally produce only small amounts of useful substances. As advances in bioprocess technology, particularly separation and purification techniques, are made, commercial firms will be able to economically produce these substances in large amounts, and thus make them available for use in medical research, food processing, agriculture, pharmaceutical development, waste management, and numerous other fields of science and industry. Therefore, we can rightfully use this notion that biotechnology has been transformed from a laboratory science into an industry. The current research focus of Industrial Biotechnology division encompasses following areas:

  • Bioresource Development for Industry
  • Industrial Enzymes, Biochemicals and Biofuels
  • Bioprocessing of Ores and Fossil Fuels
  • Nanobiotechnology


The future goals of Heath Biotechnology Division are broadly to work in the biomedical research and diagnosis by exploiting biotechnology methods. Some of the area is:

  • Inexpensive and rapid disease diagnosis using molecular biology methods for the infectious diseases (tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis B &C)
  • Development of Recombinant and therapeutic vaccines plus biological and diagnostic kits to prevent them.
  • Prenatal diagnosis and genetic counseling for chromosomal abnormalities and other genetic disorders.
  • Identification of genomic, proteomic, metabolic markers for the genetic (microcephaly, skin disorders, synpolydectyly) and metabolic disorders (diabetes, heart diseases) for their early diagnosis, disease management and identifying molecular drug targets for their therapeutic intervention.


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