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Industrial biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology (known mainly in Europe as white biotechnology) is the application of biotechnology for industrial purposes, including manufacturing, alternative energy (or "bioenergy"), and biomaterials. It includes the practice of using cells or components of cells like enzymes to generate industrially useful products. The Economist speculated (as cited in the Economist article listed in the "References" section) industrial biotechnology might significantly impact the chemical industry. The Economist also suggested it can enable economies to become less dependent on fossil fuels.

The industrial biotechnology community generally accepts an informal divide between industrial and pharmaceutical biotechnology. An example would be that of companies growing fungus to produce antibiotics, e.g. penicillin from the penicillium fungi. One view holds that this is industrial production; the other viewpoint is that such would not strictly lie within the domain of pure industrial production, given its inclusion within medical biotechnology.

This may be better understood in calling to mind the classification by the U.S. biotechnology lobby group, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) of three "waves" of biotechnology. The first wave, Green Biotechnology, refers to agricultural biotechnology. The second wave, Red Biotechnology, refers to pharmaceutical and medical biotechnology. The third wave, White Biotechnology, refers to industrial biotechnology. In actuality, each of the waves may overlap. Industrial biotechnology, particularly the development of large-scale bioenergy refineries, will likely involve dedicated genetically modified crops as well as the large-scale bioprocessing and fermentation as is used in some pharmaceutical production.

Genencor International, Novozymes and Diversa are examples of companies that specialize in industrial biotechnology, with particular focuses on specially designed enzymes to catalyze industrially relevant chemical reactions.

A significant problem in industrial biotechnology is waste production. A cell may be used to generate desirable carbon dioxide, other cells, and other molecules. It will use energy to accomplish its industrial purpose. Yet it will also use some energy to generate waste (like acetic acid) instead of the desired product or products. Decreasing waste production is a significant goal in industrial biotechnology. Metabolic engineering may help reach that goal.

Industrial Biotechnology is a peer-reviewed research and trade news journal covering this area. Other relevant research publications include Biomass and Bioenergy and the Journal of Industrial Microbiology.


  1. "Sea of Dreams: Genetically Modified Microbes will lead to a Revolution in Industrial Biotechnology", an article on page eighty-one of the 1 May 2004 issue of The Economist (Vol. 371, Iss. 8373)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Industrial_biotechnology". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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