1. Hope in General:
The manufacturing of various bio-products (bio-cellular and enzymic), being scale factor dependent on process biotechnologies.
New and conventional is controlled by powerful economic and technical forces pointing towards increased levels of interdependence.
Economy of scale factor being very powerful, engineering concerns play a great role on the technology assessment and overall success of the process biotechnology. Successful process biotechnology will contribute enormously to meet partly the challenges facing society in the future. Of the major challenges for future society six have been stated to be affected by biotechnology.
(1) Availability of raw material resources and chemical feed stocks,
(2) non-conventional energy sources,
(3) biological scale up and redesigning to industrial production problems,
(4) health care problems,
(5) environmental concerns and
(6) computer aided automation in bio-systems.
Now a global question is when biomass rather than fossil fuels will become the major source of chemical feed stocks. It is revealed by computation that a biomass farm of 5000 acres would be expected to yield approximately 9000 tons or 9 x 106 liters of alcohol per year as feed stock. Clearly, because of raw material cost, total utilization of the biomass is critical to process efficiency.
Total biomass utilization is dependent on efficient conversion of cellulose and hemicellulose into alcohol. There are several constraints to achieve this. In order to overcome many of these constraints it will be appropriate to select a process that would simultaneously hydrolyze both cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars, enzymatically convert the xylose and glucose by yeast or bacteria into alcohol.
Less developed countries having enormous tropical rainforests and those which are rich in agriculture products having the presence of a tremendous amount of residual biomass resources have great potential for agro-industrial process biotechnology development.
Developing countries have found biotechnology exciting and it may turn out to be a big business. For this business research and developments in areas of fermentation products, fermented food, biomass production, bioreactors, waste-water treatments, biomethanation, environmental processes, developing academic and research institutions, demonstration facilities are noteworthy.
Biotechnology has also a great challenge before it to become a primary producer of organic matter. For this exploitation of microbial photosynthesis overcoming its limitations on conventional agriculture is essential. Computer aided bio-processing control in developing process biotechnology has now become inevitable. Computers will have their greatest effect in process biotechnology with regard to automation, particularly of processes supporting genetic application.
Clearly, opportunities for biotechnology for years to come will largely emerge from crisis oriented problems. Raw material resources and qualified and trained human resources will have a great role. Among the crisis the two that are gaining opportunities and that are still very difficult to predict presently are those of genetic engineering and computer aided automation. However, opportunities in biotechnology are expanding.
2. Raw Material Resources:
One of the major needs for development of suitable process biotechnology is the availability of raw material or substrate resources. Industrial raw material resources in most cases being non-renewable in nature, search for alternate resources has become inevitable all over the globe.
It is to meet the demand of food, feed stock and energy of the world population. The use of biomass/renewable resources represents a possible long term solution to the problem of dwindling petroleum reserves. Lignocellulose materials are most abundant renewable resources produced by photosynthesis on earth.
Thus in agricultural countries crop production forms an integral part in process biotechnology in terms of renewable resource supply. In countries like India 74.5 million hectares of land is under forest covering a total land area of 22.7%. The annual production of cellulose in India is nearly five billion tons.
Scopes of these abundant resources have been highlighted in several places in terms of developing process biotechnology. Besides cellulose materials many other conventional and indigenous resources have been used either as a substrate or as an enhancer of product formation in process biotechnology.
Not only that besides microbial process biotechnology resources, plant cell culture and animal cell culture biotechnology are proving their international industrial impact in meeting the needs of mankind. CHEMRAWN conferences focused on the future sources of organic raw materials, world food supplies, resource material conversions etc. emphasizing impact of Biotechnology.
3. Human Resources:
For adequate human resource power to support programmes in the multidisciplinary activities of process biotechnology, different nations have taken various steps. For example in India the Department of Biotechnology (formerly NBTB) Govt. of India evolved integrated plan comprising several components. Among these components, one is the post-graduate teaching in biotechnology.
DBT in cooperation with Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), University Grant Commission, ICAR, ICMR and a few universities including IITs & IISc playing a unique role in the progress of Biotechnology in India. In all these co-operational effort, major objective is to have adequate trained manpower to support programmes in multidisciplinary areas of Biotechnology.
Among important areas of Biotechnology, tissue culture application for medicinal and economic plants, fermentation technology and enzyme engineering for chemicals, bio-chemicals, and antibiotics and other medicinal product developments through process biotechnology including agriculture and forest residues and industrial house wastes utilization, emerging areas like genetic engineering and molecular biology were in the forefront in Indian sixth S & T plan.
In order to serve for process biotechnology, besides various academic departments and centers many research laboratories of national importance such as NCL Pune, CDRI Lucknow, CFTRI Mysore, RRL Jorhat, Jammu and Kashmir and Bhubaneswar, Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, IMT, Chandigarh etc. have human resource development programmes through research more in applied microbiology within the framework of their objectives. Likewise NI1, ICGEB, New Delhi, AIIMS, New Delhi and many other centers of DBT, GOI have programmes in their domains of biotechnology activities. Many institutions and universities in overseas countries are deeply concerned to have proper manpower in the area.
4. Professional Domains of Trained Manpower:
With training in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology, a person has several fields within industry, academic institutions or research and development (R & D) laboratories to pursue his professional career. These include pharmaceuticals, chemical and biochemical waste and waste water treatments and recycling and food processing biotechnology industries.
For examples, to name a few industries in India, Cadila (Pharma), Ahmedabad; India Yeast Co. Ltd., Sreerampur (West Bengal); Alembic Chemicals, Baroda (Gujarat); IDPL, Risikesh (U.P.); Hindustan Antibiotics, Pune (Maharashtra); Unichem Ltd. (Hyderabad); Pfizer (India) Ltd, Chandigarh; Anil Starch, Ahmedabad (Gujarat); Ranbaxy, Delhi; Max India, Chandigarh; Cynamide India, Baroda; Bengal Immunity (West Bengal); SPIC pharmaceutical, Tamil Nadu and many other recent concerns are actively engaged in large scale production of antibiotics, vitamins, steroids, enzymes, vaccines etc. through bioprocesses.
Also, several companies are now engaged in production of high value low volume bio-products like restriction endonucleases, health care diagnostics and many other products. These are in addition to a large number of breweies, distilleries and food industries.
These concerns and a large number of industrial waste treatment plants whose activity primarily deals with process biotechnology look for adequately qualified biochemical engineers and biotechnologists. Recently few consultancy and other organizations such as Unique Biochemical Engineering, Bombay; Engineers India Ltd., Delhi; Biotech Consortium India Ltd, Delhi; Vam Organics Pvt. Ltd., Gazraula, U.P.; SPIC, Tamil Nadu; United Breweries, Bangalore; Biocon India, Bangalore etc. have plans in the area and are creating job avenues for biochemical engineering and biotechnology personnel. Professional domains of human resources in the area in developed and developing countries are more or less similar.
5. University/Institute-Industry Cooperation:
Necessity of strengthening of industry-university/institute linkages and cooperation has been felt in recent years more considerably. There are now a number of technology oriented industries who are appreciative of the linkages and inclined for bilateral cooperation in giving access to the facilities and resources available with them. This is primarily to remove the short comings in both academia and in industry.
The objective of creating pilot plant/demonstration facilities in some institutes/ universities was to strengthen this linkage. Pennsylvania State University’s Bioprocessing Resource Center opened a pilot plant in May 1990 mainly with this view. The first company to use this facility was Bio Process (Reading, PA) which aimed to developing a process to convert protein bearing wastes into water soluble, high quality predigested proteins for use in animal feeds.
In a similar approach a demonstration facility has been opened at IIT Delhi’s BERC/Dept. of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology for “Bioconversion of lignocelluloses into ethyl alcohol and co-products” at the beginning. Bigger bioprocessing facility available at Chemical Center of the University of Lund, Sweden, at Leigh University, USA and at a few other places in Europe has similar concepts.