White Biotechnology

It is inquisitive how new terms in science get coined: some terms appeal to the imagination of a large set of people and then a new area starts. The last few years the increasing use of the word “white biotechnology” has observed in the literature. Recently, three terms (red biotechnology, green biotechnology and white biotechnology) related to biotechnology are frequently used to harmonize concepts of scientists and environmentalists for improving sustainable synthesis. It highlights the application of modern biotechnology for the sustainable and eco-efficient industrial production of chemical, materials and energy. Red biotechnology carry out with the production of high value products (e.g., pharmaceutical proteins), green biotechnology covers the use of plants in biotechnology, whilst white biotechnology, approaches the use of biotechnology in the production of bulk and fine chemicals such as amino acids, vitamins, antibiotics, enzymes, drugs, organic acids and polymers. White biotechnology offers the rare opportunity to create a triple win for People, Planet and Profit. Let’s not pass up this promising development for our nation from which both our own and future generations can benefit. It uses living cells-from moulds, yeast, bacteria and plants and enzymes to synthesize products that are easily degradable, require less energy and generate less waste during their production. For decades, bacterial enzymes have been used widely in food manufacturing and as active ingredients in washing powders to reduce the amount of artificial surfactants. Transgenic Escherichia coli are used to produce human insulin in large-scale fermentation tanks. And the first rationally designed enzyme, used in detergents to break down fat, was introduced as early as 1988. Using alternative substrates and energy sources, white biotechnology is already establishing many innovations to the chemical, textile, food, packaging and health care industries. Dupont (Wilmington, DE, USA), the company that invented nylon, has for many years been developing a polymer based on 1,3-propanediol (PDO), with new levels of performance, resilience and softness. Adding an environmentally responsible dimension to the production, Dupont's polymerization plant in Decatur, Illinois (USA) has now successfully manufactured PDO from corn sugar, a renewable resource. But although their corn-based polymer, called Sorona®️, is more environmentally friendly and has improved characteristics, it is again up to the markets to make it a success. “The company plans an effective shift from the petroleum-based production to the bio-based one,” said Ian Hudson, Sorona®️ Business Director at Dupont, “but this will happen if the economic process and market demands justify the transition.” Current practice in industrial biotechnology demonstrates that the social (People), environment (Planet) and economic (Profit) benefits of bio-based processes go hand in hand. Substantial reductions of 17-65% greenhouse gas emissions could be realized, and a more profound shift towards bio-based chemicals could potentially account for up to 20% of the global Kyoto target. As white biotechnology is making the industry more sustainable, it is expected that benefits will also been seen across a range of critical society-based areas. Academics, industry and policy makers are progressively interested in this new technology, its economy and its contributions to a sound environment, which could make it a credible method for sustainable development. The other two term red biotechnology, green biotechnology will discuss in future. Till then, Think Wise Green Wise!

Dr. Kaushik Misra (Ex. Senior Research Fellow, IIT Kharagpur), 
Dr. Atreyee Kundu (Ex. Senior Research Fellow, Presidency University) 
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry & Department of Microbiology
Techno India University, West Bengal


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