What is biotechnology?

Biotechnology refers to the use of living organisms, or their products, to create new ways to improve human health and the environment. At its simplest, biotechnology is technology based on biology – biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our plane.

Medical biotechnology

Medical biotechnology refers to the use of biotechnology applications in the treatment and identification of human diseases. The majority of publicly listed Australian biotechnology companies are biomedical, and include Acrux, Bionomics, CSL and Mesoblast. Biomedical companies manufacture a variety of products including vaccines, blood products, anti-venoms, cancer treatments, regenerative medicines, therapeutics and diagnostics products.

Industrial biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology is a set of practices that use living cells (such as bacteria, yeast, algae) or component cells like enzymes, to generate industrial products and processes. Products include biomass-based materials such as fuels and chemicals, while processes include the treatment of waste water and energy efficiency measures. Microbiogen is an Australian company that uses advanced breeding and genetic techniques to generate a range of yeast strains for industrial purposes, including conversion of waste biomass into feed and biofuel.

Agricultural biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnology is the application of biotechnology to improve plant and animal production and to create new, high-value products. Plant biotechnology has been widely adopted in Australia. Hexima is a company that specialises in agricultural biotechnology and conducts R&D to protect and enhance commercial crops.

Environmental biotechnology

Environmental biotechnology refers to the use of biological systems, often microbes, to monitor the health of environments, or remediate contaminated environments. Enretech Australasia is a company that manufactures bioremediation products containing oil-degrading micro-organisms for treating contaminated soil or direct oil spills.


The bioeconomy refers to the emerging concept of sustainable production and conversion of biomass (organic matter) for a range of food, health, fibre, and other industrial products as well as energy.


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