The Field of Biotechnology

South San Francisco: The Birthplace of Biotechnology Photo of Genentech

Biotechnology is an applied science that develops innovative solutions in the areas of medicine and medical treatments, agriculture, industry, and environmentalism. It involves analyzing DNA, genetically enhancing organisms, and manipulating naturally occurring biological processes for groundbreaking new uses.

Medical/Pharmaceutical Biotechnology


Helps prevent and treat human disease; uses living cells and cell materials for research to produce new drugs and therapies.
  • Stem cell research
  • Gene therapy for leukemia
  • Immunotherapy for Type 1 Diabetes
  • Immunotherapy for various cancers
  • Creating mini-brains for medical research
  • Bioprinting organs
  • Growing bones in a lab
  • Covid vaccines

Agricultural Biotechnology
Improves plants, crops, microorganisms, and animals through genetic engineering. The goal is to increase agricultural productivity.
  • Cellular agriculture/lab-grown meat, an alternative to meat
  • Biopharming (engineering plants to produce ingredients for pharmaceuticals)
  • Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomato 
  • Celiac-friendly wheat
  • Drought-resistant wheat

Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology


Manipulates plants and microorganisms to produce chemicals, materials, and energy required to develop industrial goods and products or solve environmental problems.
  • Genetically engineering bacteria-eating plastic
  • Bioremediation to clean up oil spills or pollution
  • Algal Biofuels
  • Genetic engineering to save the American chestnut tree
  • DNA identification/fingerprinting of endangered species
  • Genetically Fermented foods and beverages
  • Genetically-engineered proteins for industry
  • Spider silk protein for creating stronger industrial material
    Bio Art
    Biofabricated leather
Diagnostic Biotechnology
Techniques to analyze genetic markers in order to diagnose and monitor disease, detect risk, and determine which therapies will work best for individual patients. Also used in forensics and determining genetic heritage.
  • Forensic DNA Analysis
  • Determining physical age versus biological age by studying telomeres
  • Genetically modifying gut bacteria to turn feces blue if a person is ill
  • Bioluminescence in cancer imaging
  • Screening for genetic diseases and conditions

The industry provides employment for professionals with various levels of education ranging from certificate programs from community colleges to MDs and postdocs.


Professionals with science backgrounds who are employed by the biotechnology industry:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • medical researchers
  • biomedical engineers
  • microbiologists
  • genomics specialists
  • biophysicists
  • toxicologists
  • chemists
  • laboratory technologists
  • agricultural scientists
  • botanists
  • animal scientists
  • food scientists
  • biofuel experts
  • forensics

Other professionals employed by the biotechnology industry:

  • human resource specialists
  • sales representatives
  • marketing experts
  • lawyers
  • statisticians
  • technical writers
  • accountants
  • business administrators
Most companies favor employees who also have a background in science.

Biotechnology sector jobs in California:

  • 281,000+ jobs
  • 2600+ new openings annually
  • 8700 businesses
  • 116,000+ average income
  • 4.4 billion in venture capital invested


Genentech employee with lab coat, gloves, and goggles Genentech cell lab
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