The biotechnology industry is based around using organisms, chemicals, or processes from the life sciences for commercial purposes. In some cases, this means developing an end product from these biological sources; in others, it means using biological components to improve processes that develop non-biological products. In still other cases, companies in the biotechnology industry use biological components in order to develop new processes, not products. Biotechnology has many different applications, but the most prominent are in the areas of medicine, food, and fuel.
One of the most profitable and prominent areas of focus for the biotechnology industry is human health and medicine. One common goal in medicine is to develop "personalized medicine" by tailoring treatments specifically to patients, not just to their illnesses. This involves developing technologies to learn about an individual's genetic makeup and to develop more nuanced diagnostic methods. On a larger scale, some companies in the biotechnology industry work to reduce or prevent the spread of disease by developing effective vaccines or by finding methods to neutralize the agents that spread the disease. Many drug companies are also based in biotechnology and seek to use biological components and processes in their drug development and production.
The biotechnology industry also plays a major role in combating world hunger and in developing artificially healthful, genetically-altered foods. Methods in biotechnology can be used, for instance, to develop crops that are less susceptible to damage from insects or that can survive in relatively inhospitable environments. One common goal for companies working in this area of the biotechnology industry is to drastically reduce the need for pesticides and other chemical treatments for crops. Biotechnologists can also engineer crops to contain more vitamins and other nutrients. This is important in areas naturally lacking in foods containing vital nutrients.
Fuel is another lucrative and important area of focus in the biotechnology industry, as fuel is consumed on a vast scale throughout the world. This focus on fuel is often directed at reducing the world's reliance on fossil fuels, as there is only a limited supply of such fuels and they contribute substantially to world pollution. Biotechnologists work, for instance, to develop clean-burning "biofuels" from abundant biological sources. Some also work to develop fuels from various chemical waste products in order to confront the massive demand for fuel and the problem of waste disposal at the same time.