|Year : 2004 | Volume
| Issue : 6 | Page : 392-393
IJP, JIPMER, Pondicherry, India
IJP, JIPMER, Pondicherry, India
|How to cite this article:|
Singh J. BioTech. Indian J Pharmacol 2004;36:392-3
Modern biotechnology has transcended the confines of its traditional domain of technology based on biology to a more modern one that includes the use of genetically altered microorganisms for producing therapeutic substances, transgenic animals and plants, genetically altered mammalian cells and the development of plant-based pharmaceuticals. Biotechnology is publicly associated with cloning and genetic engineering but the real goal of the discipline is to "advance the tools of medicine and solve problems related to the production of biologically derived products, not the whimsical manipulation of life".
Newer advances that do not use living organisms, namely radioactive tracers and DNA chips using genetics also fall under the modern description. The ambivalent path of drug discovery relies heavily on the use of biotechnology for a number of reasons. The prime motive is to shorten the lag period between identification of a new chemical and its possible deployment as a therapeutic product.
Even the best equipped and the most informed scientific team is unable to keep pace with the innumerable developments, new products and jargon that are a part of the myriad advances being made in the discipline.
BioTech (http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu) [Figure - 1] is an amalgam of biology and related disciplines and is intended to be a regularly updated resource. The website professes to be an educational site for the uninitiated and also a research tool for those experts already involved in working with related branches of learning. It also provides information about other linked areas that can be explored.
The home page of the website is simple and a good place to start exploring it is by following the Guided Tour link. The tour is a self-explanatory guide to various types of available resources. The first stop is the BioTech Resources page which has links to Science, Professional and Bioinformatics resources. The Science Resources consist of links to various topics ranging from genetics, microbiology, biochemistry and ecology to medicine. Separate links for protocol development and nanotechnology are also present. This is a large repository that also links to external websites besides including some core articles on varied aspects of these topics.
The Professional Resources page has links to employment, regulatory, government and industry sites. It is more oriented to address the needs of local American audiences but provides an insight into the worldwide opportunities for biotechnology-driven research. The Bioinformatics Resource page contains an introduction to the discipline along with a link to well-written primary information on databases, gene and protein models.
Cyberbotanica forms the second stop of the tour and provides information about botanical compounds used in cancer treatment. It contains links to a detailed description of plants, photographs and the active chemicals. More than 70 of these plants are listed along with a comparison of their chemical properties, approval status and major indications. The section is referenced and has links to various sites on ethnobotany, plant databases and chemotherapy websites.
The next part is the searchable Life Science Dictionary which contains more than 8000 terms related to biotechnology. The search capability is further enhanced by performing a lookup, by plant, animal or chemical subtype database. The fourth stop is an Introduction to Glycolysis that describes the glycolytic pathway and is replete with reactions, practice questions and a test.
The website has a number of dead links which hamper smooth navigation. The search facility cannot be invoked from most of the pages and is not very well evolved. There is a lack of good graphics and color which could make the site even more informative.
BioTech will serve as a useful a tool to anyone interested in learning about biotechnology, teaching or using it in research. It addresses traditional as well as newer applications of the biological sciences and very skillfully interfaces computers, technology and the vast resources of the World Wide Web.