Home Biology Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
Biology By Joe Burgett -

Biotechnology has been improving dramatically in the last few years, and even more when you consider how far it has come over the last few decades. It seems we’re seeing breakthroughs in biotechnology every other month, which is good to see. Some of the most important things that’ll change our lives forever will come out of this field. That is especially true when it comes to the medical field. Things like new and revolutionary pharmaceutical drugs are slowly being developed to treat things that were once untreatable even as recently as 2021. This is terrific to see, as biotech is becoming one of the biggest fields for scientists to take part in. Biotechnology is defined as the use of biology to develop new products, organisms, and methods that are intended to improve human health and our overall society. Therefore, it is clearly one of the most important fields in all of science too.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Rido/Shutterstock.com]

Precision Medicine

  • Developer: Dr. Keith Yamamoto
  • Aim: Improve Personal Health

Precision Medicine is perhaps one of our biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology, as we’re essentially doing something obvious. With this approach, we’re tailoring disease prevention and all treatments by taking a person’s genes, environment, and lifestyle into consideration. Think about when you go to the doctor. You go in for issues you might have and they give you the same medications or treatments they give everyone else with the same issue. This might be fine for things like the flu and all, but not for everything else. Dr. Keith Yamamoto came up with this idea back in July 2011 when he discussed it at the NASEM Meeting. His concept made sense because we cannot pretend everyone is the same. We can do better, and that is the entire aim of precision medicine…to get precise treatments for a single human each time.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Meletios Verras/Shutterstock.com]

Organoid Technology

  • Developer: Hans Clevers, Hubrecht Insitutute, & University Medical Center – Urecht
  • Aim: Better Testing & Study Of The Human Body

Organoid Technology is one of the best things the world of science has ever developed. Organoids are fully-grown, but miniature human organs, that are made inside laboratories. While many scientists have used animals, such as mice, for testing out specific stuff, this was not good enough. We did not get an accurate depiction of how well things would work for humans. Normal human trials could help, but that could still pose a danger. These organs might be smaller versions of our own, but they offer a much more accurate picture and model for scientists. Which allows them to study diseases, test out drugs, and much more. We have a Dutch molecular geneticist named Hans Clevers to thank for this, as well as his teams at the Hubrecht Institute and University Medical Center in Utrecht.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock.com]


  • Developer: Karl Deisseroth (Stanford University) & Ed Boyden (MIT)
  • Aim: Precise Treatments Surrounding Neurology

One of the biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology is most certainly optogenetics. This is a technique where genetics and optics are combined to control the activity of specific neurons in the brain. The hope is that it can shed light on brain function and even offer potential treatments for neurological disorders. This field actually controls a ton of things, such as answering questions about things like behavior and physiology. At the same time, it also offers a lot of insight into things like navigation, learning, memory, respiration, blood pressure, motivation, fear, movement, metabolism, sleep, sensory processing, and much more.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Chatuphot/Shutterstock.cpm]

mRNA Vaccine Development

  • Developer: Drew Weissman & Katalin Karikó
  • Aim: Faster And More Effective Vaccines Against Numerous Diseases

We’ve been using vaccines in some form for hundreds of years now. Dr. Edward Jenner created the first proven vaccine, which was for smallpox, in 1796. However, it is claimed that China invented the first use of a vaccine in history…though Jenner’s proved to be properly effective. For years, vaccines used to use an inert version of a virus or disease and develop a vaccine around it. Our bodies would then be exposed to it and help our immune system will then make antibodies to fight the illnesses. However, the introduction of mRNA vaccines changed this system. Rather than using the inert version, the vaccine introduces RNA trainers. Which teaches the cells how to make a small, harmless piece of the virus to then trigger an immune response inside the body. This proved to be very effective.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via the University of Queensland]

Quantum Microscope

  • Developer: Team Led By Igor Aharonovich (University of Technology Sydney) & Team Led By Dr. Jean-Philippe Tetienne (RMIT University)
  • Aim: Resolves Biologically Relevant Features Of Human/Non-Human Live Cells While Minimizing Photodamage

The Quantum Microscope was a massive invention that will change the landscape of what we can do, and obviously, what we can see. The microscope not only provides 35% clarity without the destruction of cells. It also helps in improving sensing, which eliminates the last piece of a very difficult puzzle. This microscope has broken what is known as the “hard barrier” in conventional microscopy based on light. It is one of the biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology because it will offer countless improvements to the field. Quantum Microscopes have two laser light sources, but send one of the beams through a specially designed crystal. This crystal then “squeezes” the light. It is able to do this by introducing quantum correlations in the photons, which are the particles of light within the laser beam.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Joe Burgett/Stable Diffusion]

Plants That Can Resist Environmental Stress

  • Developer: Researchers At The University of Pennsylvania
  • Aim: Make Plants Capable Of Dealing With Severe Environmental Stress

For those unaware, plant root epidermis have long root hair projections. They are this way as it increases their surface area for water and nutrient absorption. Of course, phosphates are a key nutrient for plant growth and photosynthesis. Sadly, there is a low concentration of phosphates in most soil, which makes any uptake difficult, causing nutrient stress in plants. However, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have solved this issue. They discovered that the overexpression of the GRP8 gene increases the production of root hairs. Therefore, increases the surface area of water and nutrient absorption. This overexpression has also been found to improve plant tolerance to phosphate starvation. In turn, that means it has enhanced resistance to several environmental stresses. It also reduces the need for fertilizer too!

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Guteksk7/Shutterstock.com]

3D Bioprinting

  • Developer: Thomas Boland (University of El Paso)
  • Aim: To Print Off Living Parts To One Day Replace The Need For Organ Donation

Perhaps one of the single coolest breakthroughs in biotechnology is 3D Bioprinting. Today, scientists are able to print off living tissues and organs layer by layer, which is revolutionizing organ transplantation and regenerative medicine. However, we should make sure you’re aware that we cannot print off entire organs using these bioprinters just yet. Tissues are relatively easy and making organ layers is simplistic enough to fix up already functioning organs within the body. Essentially, we’re introducing growth factors and biomaterials into the body to create what scientists call a “microenvironment.” Here, cells can grow and differentiate in tissue structures overall. Again, it is important to be aware we cannot print off entire organs yet but this is an amazing step in that future direction.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Advanced Solutions]

4D Bioprinting

  • Developer: Skylar Tibbits (Self-Assembly Lab At MIT)
  • Aim: To Build Off Of 3D Bioprinting

After 3D, the next best advancement would be four dimensional printing. The creation of 4D material is based on a gelatin-like hydrogel that changes shape when it comes in contact with water. It’s also cell-compatible and recyclable, making it an ideal alternative for enhanced tissue engineering. The 4D hydrogels maintain a high density in cells, which facilitates cell-seeing processes. This type of thing has been incredibly helpful to the implementation of bone marrow stem cells at a very high density in the hydrogel. Doing so without destroying them which is a huge advancement. Differing from 3D, the 4D approach has the capacity to change its shape related to neighboring tissues. Therefore, this can be used to create tissues and organs, like a nose for facial reconstruction. It can also regenerate new skin to battle skin cancer, as well as heart tissue and much more.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Alpha Tauri 3D Graphics/Shutterstock.com]

Microbiome Research

  • Developer: Joshua Lederberg (coined the “microbiome” term)
  • Aim: To Aid Human Health & Wellness

Many people might be unaware of what a “microbiome” actually is. You aren’t alone in that, as it’s a relatively new term. For those unaware, a microbiome is simply the collection of all microbes. Think about things like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and the genes involved in all of this. The big thing is that it must involve the stuff that naturally resides in your body or on it. A microscope is needed to see all of these things, but obviously, they are major contributors to human health and wellness. Today, we’re creating biotechnology that is capable of not only recognizing and understanding the total microbiome of a person but also how to treat issues inside it. Many believe that we’re possibly going to be able to scan our bodies to check on our microbiome eventually, and likely be capable of handling major health complications before they get bad.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock.com]

Biogen’s Revolutionary Treatment

  • Developer: Biogen
  • Aim: First Drug To Treat ALS

Many believe that Biogen is a pharmaceutical company, but they actually call themselves a “biotechnology company.” They have developed some amazing technology for the health field that you need to know about. The area they seem to specialize in is the development of treatments for neuromuscular or neurological diseases/conditions. They have been a relatively important name in the field since 2012, but now they are making stuff related to two major diseases. The first is for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Their drug, known as Qalsody, is the first treatment ever made for ALS and it’s currently in its second FDA-cleared trial. They also have their second drug for Alzheimer’s disease and another drug to treat depression coming this year. Biogen will be a company to watch for sure!

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Magicmine/iStock via Getty Images]

Altimmune’s Obesity Target

  • Developer: Altimmune
  • Aim: To Target Obesity At Its Source

Not to be outdone by Biogen, Altimmune is developing a drug specifically to target obesity. It’s clear that there are many drugs that claim to help you lose weight. There are also “diet pills” that people use even when they likely aren’t needing to do so. Altimmune wanted to provide a solution for obesity due to all the health complications that come with it. They have three current drug candidates in stage 2 trials, but their obesity drug known as Pemvidutide just finished its Phase 2 trial. The results were considered “very promising.” Phase 3 trials could come as soon as this Fall, but full FDA clearance and rollout are at minimum a year away.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Christoph Burgstedt/Shutterstock.com]

Biocompatible Proteins For Tunable Proton Conduction

  • Developer: University Of California, Irvine Researchers
  • Aim: Improvement Of Proton Transport In Devices

Proton-conducting materials are key for renewable energy and bioelectronic technology. Many modern devices rely on proper proton transport, ranging from fuel cells and transistors to biosensors and medical implants. Yet this does not always work as efficiently as it could. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have been aiming to improve this using protein-based proton-conducting materials. They’ve made a biocompatible and versatile proton-conducting material from naturally occurring, structural proteins found in cephalopods. Known as Proton-Conducting Cephalopod Proteins or PCCPs, they are able to handle heat and acidity well. One could also modify them using genetic engineering to tune the resulting electrical properties to different specifications. Thereby allowing ease of integration into protonic flow systems.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Yurchanka Siarhei/Shutterstock.com]

Synthetic Biology

  • Developer: Stéphane Leduc (coined the “synthetic biology” term)
  • Aim: To Better Aid The Medical Field, Helping In Therapy And Disease Targeting

Synthetic Biology has managed to give us a lot of interesting things in the last number of years. In this field, scientists engineer organisms that perform new functions or produce valuable components, such as things like biofuels or medications. Within the realm of therapeutics alone, synthetic biology has given us major advancements in altering and simplifying the scope of the therapeutic field. New therapeutic platforms gave us logical and model-guided design construction of biological components. In this field, one can control completely created viruses and organisms, making them target specific pathogens and disease pathways. Within the cancer field, the field has created artificial viruses and organisms that can identify and connect therapeutic actions to pathological signals, which can help to treat the patient.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Martin Lisner/Shutterstock.com]

Biodegradable Biosurfactants

  • Developer: Researchers At The University Of Western Cape & The Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics
  • Aim: Creation Of Environmentally-Friendly, Effective Cleaning Product (mostly for industrial & medical fields)

Surfactants, or the primary component in cleaning detergents, are important for home use. However, they are even more important in the medical and industrial fields, due to how bad some of the materials in these fields can be. They are used in numerous industries and have a lot of versatility as they can be used for emulsifying, detergency, and foaming. Synthetically-made surfactants have proven to offer a bigger environmental risk, however, as they cannot be degraded. Now, a research team at the University of Western Cape has made one of the best breakthroughs in biotechnology, as they have developed alternative biotech solutions. Their patented compounds have proven to be degradable, thus offering an environmentally-safe option over the current synthetic models. The cleaner is just as effective as well.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Yurchanka Siarhei/Shutterstock.com]

Immunotherapy Advancements

  • Developer: Countless Developments & Discoveries Since 16th Century BCE
  • Aim: To Help The Human Immune System Fight Off Disease

People mostly know the field of Immunotherapy as a territory that seeks to improve the immune system. Yet things changed slightly when we began using this to treat cancer. In cancer immunotherapy, specialists exploit the idea that cancer cells have tumor antigens. These molecules, at least on their surface, can be detected by antibody proteins from our immune system. While antibodies usually bind to external pathogens, immunotherapy modifies them to bind to tumor antigens with the idea to kill them off. This has proven to be pretty effective for some cancers. Yet breakthroughs in biotechnology within this field have given us a lot to work off of. Such as new checkpoint inhibitors, autologous CAR T-cell therapy, and even the recent mRNA vaccinations are a testament to the success of this field.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Deutschlandreform/Shutterstock.com]

Lab-Grown Meat

  • Developer: Willem van Eelen (filed the first patent for cultured meat manufacturing)
  • Aim: To Develop Meat Products Without The Use Of Animal Agriculture

We’re sure you’ve heard of things like the “Impossible Burger” or “Impossible Whopper” before. These were developed by the Impossible Foods company, where they make plant-based substitutes for meat products. Most could never tell the difference in taste between a real burger and an Impossible Burger. Yet while this was one of the bigger breakthroughs in biotechnology, lab-grown meat overall is as well. This is meat that is made from animal cells, which can produce meat products without the need for traditional animal agriculture. This offers incredible sustainability options. While some vegetarians/vegans do not eat meat for health reasons, others do not do so because of their love of animals. Lab-grown meat offers meat products without slaughtering any animals, removing potential ethical concerns.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Universal Pictures]

Artificial Intelligence In Biotech

  • Developer: Numerous
  • Aim: To Make More Accurate & Precise Biotechnology Than Ever Before

Artificial Intelligence has been very helpful to the world of biotechnology. It has helped to give us some important breakthroughs in biotechnology. It has given us smart manufacturing as well as augmented analytics. At the same time, AI has also identified biomarkers for developing drugs. AI has also given us fast analysis for healthcare information, bioinformatics for genome sequencing, eliminating manual data entry and analysis tasks, farmland data, as well as recognizing accurate molecules for particular drugs. Overall, AI has simply made biotechnology better and resulted in the creation of more accurate models. Due to its versatility, countless fields from healthcare to agriculture use AI on a regular basis.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via the American Chemical Society]

Cell-Free Protein Production Platform

  • Developer: Researchers At Australian National University
  • Aim: To Make An Efficient & Cost-Effective Way To Produce eCells

CFPS or Cell-Free Protein Synthesis is known for the production of proteins using biological transcription processes without the need for living cells. Rather, the method uses a lysate, which contains all of the essential macromolecules. This allows it to facilitate biological synthesis. However, lysate preparation is obviously very time-consuming and quite expensive. Yet researchers at Australian National University are changing this. They’ve produced an encapsulated cell-like structure known as eCells, based on the E. Coli lysate for use in CFPS. The biotech they created offers an efficient and cost-effective production of eCells. They can be used to synthesize bioproducts of high commercial value and industrial relevance.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Perig76/Freepik.com]

Synthetic DNA

  • Developer: H. Gobind Khorana, Robert H. Letsinger, Marvin H. Caruthers, & Har Gobind Khorana (and co-workers)
  • Aim: To Study The Human System – Such As Understanding Mutations, Diseases, & More

Synthetic DNA has been one of our biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology. Its initial use was to help with tracking the spread of infections and the evolution of a virus, such as the recent COVID-19 virus. Synthetic DNA is used for research in areas where using active DNA is not possible or preferred. To work in this field, you must be pretty creative, but most biologists have loved the flexibility it offers. This DNA is made from individual phosphoramidite monomers, which are combined to create individual oligonucleotides between 60 to 100 nuchal translucency (nt) in length. It used to be much harder to do stuff in the field, where manual synthesis could take more than 12 hours. Yet new automated chemical molecule manufacturing versions are mechanized and integrated directly into the DNA synthesis apparatus.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Smileus/Shutterstock.com]

Universal Plant Gene Modification To Improve Growth

  • Developer: Researchers At The University Of Western Australia
  • Aim: To Give Us More Control Over Plant Growth & Plant Characteristics

Due to climate change as well as the increased human population, there is a bigger need to produce crops than ever before. Normally, there is pressure to produce crops with improved nitrogen, which can aid in nutrition for agriculture and environmental carbon sequestration. Early Nodulin or ENOD genes have been shown as an essential need for nitrogen-fixing nodule formation. They have been applied to increase its use. However, researchers haven’t really understood how ENOD worked for plant growth. Yet at the University of Western Australia, scientists have identified the role of the ENOD gene in plant cells. Thus, they have been able to target tuning and manipulation of it in plants during specific phases in their lifecycle. This also gives us more control over the development of desirable characteristics in plants too.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Pikisuperstar/Freepik.com]

Nanopore Sequencing

  • Developer: David Deamer, Hagan Bayley
  • Aim: Rapid DNA Sequencing Results, To Get Data Back Quicker

Nanopore Sequencing is used in the sequencing of biopolymers. Think about stuff like polynucleotides, which come in the form of DNA and RNA. Using this method, a single molecule of DNA or RNA can be sequenced without needing PCR amplification or chemical labeling. It has the potential to offer a lot of low-cost genotyping, high mobility for testing, and even rapid processing of samples. You can even display the latter in real time. We use them for rapid IDing of viral pathogens, environmental monitoring, food safety monitoring, antibiotic resistance monitoring, and countless other needs. Importantly, real-time DNA sequencing to give rapid diagnostics is revolutionary and has become one of the biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology to date.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via Sunset Paper/Shutterstock.com]

Recycling Plastics With Synthetic Organisms

  • Developer: Researchers At Macquarie University
  • Aim: To Clean Up Plastic Waste In The Environment

It’s clear that plastic has become a huge environmental hazard. Heck, we have an entire patch in the ocean dedicated to it among other trash. To be fair, a small portion of plastic is recycled. Things like Polyethylene or PE make up roughly 40% of all plastic production, including things like petroleum-based polymers. However, only 20% of it is recycled. This might be changing due to researchers at Macquarie University. They have developed a method that uses engineered microbial synthesis to produce moth, fungal, and/or bacterial PE degrading enzymes. This results in either the degradation or recycling of PE into things like commercially viable products. Think biofuels, fertilizers, or industrial chemical products. This is huge and one of the biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology that could dramatically aid the environment.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via PopTicka/Shutterstock.com]

CRISPR/Gene Editing

  • Developer: Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, & Feng Zhang
  • Aim: Edit Genomes In DNA To Possibly Fix Or Enhance Human Beings

Gene editing has been taking place for many years now, with the first start of this dating back to the 1990s. However, all of this truly ramped up when CRISPR-Cas9 showed up to change the entire game. Standing for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,” CRISPR is able to edit genes by cutting DNA with incredible precision, which then allows the natural DNA to take over and repair itself. The system works in two parts: the Cas9 enzyme and a guide RNA. Both work together to cut out parts we do not want. It works similarly to surgery, where we’re fixing or removing something but ideally, no scars will be left behind. This allows us to cut out parts in the genome of the DNA that are problematic, such as hereditary diseases as well as potential unique diseases to the person such as diabetes.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via K_E_N/Shutterstock.com]


  • Developer: Ilya Ilich Metchnikoff & Paul Ehrlich (Won 1908 Nobel Prize In Physiology/Medicine For This)
  • Aim: To Treat People Using Robotics/Biotechnology At A Better Level Than Current Medicine

Nanomedicine is a relatively new but truly exciting field. It is truly one of the biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology to date, and we can do so many great things with this already. In the future, this will become even bigger. Essentially nanomedicine revolves around the use of tiny nanoparticles that are engineered to deliver drugs, target specific cells, and even perform diagnostics with great accuracy and efficacy. Many see this as a massive field, which is why many governments are putting a lot of money into the field right now. Global funding for research has increased by around 40 to 45% per year since 2013! The belief is that, if we can already diagnose people relatively well and the tech made can do quite a lot. Then we might be able to make nanobots that can wipe out specific cancers, viruses, and much more.

Modern Medicine Will Never Look The Same After These Biotechnology Breakthroughs
[Image via vchal/Shutterstock.com]

Gene Therapy

  • Developer: French Anderson
  • Aim: To Alter Genes With The Hope Of Treating Or Ending Diseases

Gene Therapy is very similar to gene editing. The difference is that gene therapy is the addition of new genes to human cells while gene editing revolves around the manipulation of a sequence in the human genome. While gene therapy can manipulate the expression of a gene or alter the properties of living cells, this is usually for therapeutic use. Gene editing is also usually done before a person is born while gene therapy can be done at any time. Gene therapy has been known to replace disease-causing genes with healthy copies of the gene as well as deactivating disease-causing genes that are not functioning correctly. It also can introduce new or modified genes into the body to treat disease. This can work similarly to a vaccine in this form. Truly this is one of the biggest breakthroughs in biotechnology, without question.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

World Health Organization (WHO)

National Institutes of Health

National Human Genome Research Institute

United States Patent & Trademark Office

United States Government Accountability Office

Harvard University

University of Pennsylvania

University of California, Irvine

Macquarie University

University of Western Australia

Australian National University

University of Western Cape