Types of Biotechnology with Examples


What is Biotechnology?

 Biotechnology is the processing of living organisms, their components, or by-products for industrial applications. Biotechnology has a wide range of applications such as vaccines, Chitosan coated wound dressings (Chitosan is derived from crab shell), the development of new sources of biofuel, genetic modification of crops, beer brewing, anti-aging cosmetics, and more

Types/ Classes of Biotechnology

When we hear Biotechnology, we think of its applications in medicines and healthcare treatments, but its applications and impacts cover almost all aspects of human life.

Types of biotech are therefore classified according to their features and areas of applications.

Listed below are some of the main areas of applications of Biotechnology using a colour classification.

  • Medical biotech (Red)
  • Agricultural biotech (Green)
  • Marine biotech (Blue)
  • Industrial biotech

Medical Biotechnology (Red)

Medical biotechnology involves the use of living cells and other cell materials to improve human healthcare. Medical biotech is applied to finding treatments and preventing diseases.

The process involves the use of research tools to find different or more efficient ways of maintaining human health, analyzing and understanding pathogens, and human cell biology.

The technique is used to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs and other chemicals to fight diseases. It involves the study of bacteria, plant & animal cells, to first understand the way they function at different levels and interact with others.

The study involves the analysis of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) of these living things to get to understand how to manipulate the genetic makeup of cells to increase the production of useful characteristics that might be beneficial to humans, like in the production of insulin.

This leads to the development of new drugs and treatments, novel to the medical field.

Examples of Medical Biotechnology


Vaccines are chemical substances that improve the body’s immune system to better fight pathogens when they attack the body. They achieve this by introducing attenuated (weakened) versions of the disease into the body’s bloodstream.

The vaccine spurs the body to react in such a way that appears was it under attack from the non-attenuated version of the disease. The body combats the weakened pathogens and, through the process, understands the cell structure of the pathogens and has some cells that ‘remember’ the disease and store away the information within the body.

When one becomes exposed to the actual disease, the body of the individual immediately recognizes it and immediately forms a defense response against the disease, having gotten some information on the disease. This results in quicker healing and less time being symptomatic.

Biotechnological techniques like growing antigenic proteins in genetically engineered crops are used to extract attenuated disease pathogens. One of the examples is the development of an anti-lymphoma vaccine using genetically engineered tobacco plants made to exhibit RNA (a similar chemical to DNA) from malignant (actively cancerous) B-cells.


Great feats have been achieved in the development of antibiotics that combat pathogens in humans and animals using plants and animals. There are plants grown and genetically engineered to produce antibodies.

The method of using plants is more cost-effective than using cells or extracting these antibodies from animals because plants produce these antibodies in larger quantities. 

Agricultural Biotechnology (Green)

Agricultural biotechnology is a type of biotechnology that involves the development of genetically modified plants to increase crop yields or introduce characteristics to those plants that give them an advantage in areas that are not conducive to naturally growing the plant, such as weather, soil, and pests.

In some cases, the practice involves scientists identifying a characteristic, finding the gene that causes it, and then putting that gene within another plant so that it gains that desirable characteristic, making it more durable or having it produce larger yields than it previously did.

Examples of Agricultural Biotechnology

Pest Resistant Crops

Biotechnology has provided techniques for the creation of crops that express anti-pest characteristics naturally, making them very resistant to pests, as opposed to having to keep dusting them and spraying them with pesticides.

An example of this would be the fungus Bacillus thuringiensis genes being transferred to crops.

The reason for this is that the fungus produces a protein (Bt), which is very effective against pests such as the European corn borer. The Bt protein is the desired characteristic scientist would like the plants to have, and for this reason, they identified the gene causing Bt protein to express in the fungus and transferred it to corn.

The corn then produces the protein toxin naturally, lowering the cost of production by eliminating the cost of dusting the crop with pesticides.

Plant and Animal Breeding

Selective breeding has been a practice humans have engaged in since farming began. The practice involves choosing the animals with the most desirable characteristics to breed with each other so that the resulting offspring would also express these traits.

Desirable characteristics included larger animals, animals more resistant to disease, and more domicile animals, all geared to making the process of farming as profitable as possible.

This practice has been transferred to the molecular level with the same purpose. Different traits are selected among the animals, and once the genetic markers have been pointed out, animals and plants with those traits are selected and bred for those traits to be transferred.

A genomic understanding of those traits is what informs the decisions on whether the desired traits will express or get lost as recessive traits that do not show.

Such information provides the basis for making informed decisions enhancing the capability of the scientists to predict the expression of those genes. An example is its use in flower production, where traits such as color and smell potency are enhanced.

Marine Biotechnology

Blue biotechnology is sometimes regarded as the fourth main type of biotechnology. It refers to the study of marine organisms with a focus on using these organisms for various human purposes, such as creating new medicines or food supplements to enhance human health.

Blue biotechnology makes use of a wide variety of marine organisms and resources for various tasks, such as shellfish, algae, and other substances. For example, the use of ziconotide, a substance derived from the venom of cone snails, is said to be an effective human painkiller.

An exciting idea is using marine biotechnology to create alternative sources of energy. Biofuel, for example, can be made from microalgae. The benefit is that algal biomass can be artificially grown without competing with other plants.

The industrial sector benefits greatly from “blue” biotechnology. Various proteins, biopolymers, biomaterials, and enzymes are produced in large quantities from the marine ecosystem.

Examples of Marine Biotechnology

Examples include biotechnology products such as green fluorescent protein derived from jellyfish that’s used to create energy due to how it reacts to UV light.

Industrial Biotechnology 

Biotechnology affects many sectors, such as the textile, food, and energy sectors.

It is, in fact, the largest branch of biotechnology! Its focus is on using technology to create new processes with the use of fewer natural resources and energy as compared to conventional methods.

So, industrial biotechnology makes use of living cells derived from sources such as plants, bacteria, and yeast, and creates products that need fewer resources (such as energy) during their production. They also produce less waste.

There have already been valuable developments made by industrial biotechnology. An example is how the use of bacterial enzymes have been used to manufacture food as well as to make washing powder to decrease artificial ingredients, as EMBO Reports explains.

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