(Roughly) Daily

“The rewards for biotechnology are tremendous – to solve disease, eliminate poverty, age gracefully. It sounds so much cooler than Facebook.”*…

 

It’s hard to tell precisely how big a role biotechnology plays in our economy, because it infiltrates so many parts of it. Genetically modified organisms such as microbes and plants now create medicine, food, fuel, and even fabrics. Recently, Robert Carlson, of the biotech firm Biodesic and the investment firm Bioeconomy Capital, decided to run the numbers and ended up with an eye-popping estimate. He concluded that in 2012, the last year for which good data are available, revenues from biotechnology in the United States alone were over $324 billion.

“If we talk about mining or several manufacturing sectors, biotech is bigger than those,” said Carlson. “I don’t think people appreciate that.”…

What makes the scope of biotech so staggering is not just its size, but its youth. Manufacturing first exploded in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. But biotech is only about 40 years old. It burst into existence thanks largely to a discovery made in the late 1960s by Hamilton Smith, a microbiologist then at Johns Hopkins University, and his colleagues, that a protein called a restriction enzyme can slice DNA. Once Smith showed the world how restriction enzymes work, other scientists began using them as tools to alter genes…

The whole story at “The Man Who Kicked Off the Biotech Revolution.”

* George M. Church

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As we clean our petri dishes, we might recall that it was on this date in 182 that Charles M. Graham was issued the first U.S. patent for artificial teeth. The record, and its details, were lost in the Patent Office fire of December, 1836.  Dentures or false teeth had been around for eons. There is evidence Etruscans in what is today northern Italy made dentures out of human or animal teeth as early as 7000 BC; George Washington owned four separate sets of dentures (though none were wooden, despite a myth to that effect).  But Graham was the first to patent his approach.

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Written by LW

March 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

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