Technology Community 
January/February 2000 edition

  

Biotechnology Will Drive 21st Century Economy

By Guest Author: Leah McNeill

We are starting the century of biology, according to the Institute for Genome Research, whose president predicted in Business Week last year that advances in biotechnology will be the driving force behind the economy of the 21st century.

Thus opinion is echoed by others in government and higher education. National Science Foundation Director, Rita Colwell, coined the term "biocomplexity," which refers to the integration of research in the life, physical and social sciences with advanced technology. Harvard-affiliated economist Juan Enriquez Cabot has predicted that "a significant and increasing chunk of the world economy will be dominated by the life sciences."

Closer to home, Bioscience Programs Director, Chuck Ferris, of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) also predicts that the next economic revolution will be biological. "It will knock the socks off the information technology revolution," he said. "It may take a while but the signs are there." For example, in January the programs of the Technology Advancement Group (TAG) at CCHE were audited by national reviewers, who recommended that bioengineering be pursued and integrated with TAG's programs in advanced materials and information technology.

It is this integration that will make bioengineering a driving force in the global economy in the years to come, according to Ferris. He gives the example of "gene chips," which are the product of the escalating interplay between molecular biology, information processing, and advanced materials. Used as a medical diagnostic tool, the silicon chips have generic detector probes bound to the silicon by photolithography. "Suspect" genetic material is treated and passed on to the chip, where it binds, or hybridizes, with the probe.

The probe then detects a specific genetic disease or its cause, such as bacteria. This technology will ultimately enable the rapid detection of a particular genetically caused disease or disease-producing pathogen. This will be important in recognizing genetic diseases for which gene therapies will eventually provide a "cure." (For more on gene chips, go to http://www.affymetrix.com)

The research on remote sensors for diabetics who have lost sensation in their feet is a local example of technology integration. So is the work on porous bone implants being conducted by the CSM Center for Commercial Application of Combustion in Space. Bone implants are usually "glued" together, but the advanced materials and processes being used by CSM researchers Frank Schowengerdt and John Moore create a stronger bond--by allowing new bone to "cement" together the patient's existing bone and the implant. The size of the pores can be better controlled by manufacturing them in microgravity conditions.

CSM's role in the integration of technologies is especially significant, Ferris points out, because the school is also educating the "discoverers" who initiate the whole process. "It is imperative that our state education system continue its tradition of graduate education, producing our next generation of discoverers," says Ferris, who is concerned about Colorado maintaining its leading edge in the technology marketplace.

To promote further technology integration in the state, CCHE is working with all three-state research universities to form a consortium called the Colorado Bioengineering Alliances. "This program was actually initiated at the Colorado School of Mines by Dr. Shoureshi," he explained. "Mines, CSU, CU-Boulder and the Health Sciences Center each bring strengths to the table. We are looking at bioengineering in a multidisciplinary and a multiinstitutional manner, which could lead to development of a model for such enterprises."

Bio-engineering is also being considered for inclusion at the site of the former Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center that is being redeveloped into a new health sciences complex. "Bio-engineering will be an important component in leveraging Fitzsimmons," he said. Ferris' enthusiasm for the biotechnolgy thrust stems in part from his own professional experience. A Ph.D., he conducted research in cellular biology for the Army, both at Fitzsimmons and at Letterman Army Institute of Research in San Francisco.


 Headlines from the January/ February edition of Technology Community

Page 2 TL 9000-ISO 9000 for the Telecom Industry

Page 3 Fifteen Colorado Companies on the Technology Fast 500 List

Page 4 Six Academic Investigators Granted Funding

Page 5 OUT IN FRONT -- Colorado Photonics Companies Awarded New Training Grants

Page 6 ABOUT TOWN -- Sixth Dimension Joins Fort Collins Business Incubator

Page 7 COLUMNS & NEWS -- RVC and CUBAC Columns

Page 8 CPIA and Technology Transfer Society Columns

Page 9 R&D Funding -- ATP Announces Fiscal Year 2000 Proposal Solicitation and Proposers'
Conference

Page 10 U.S. Renewable Energy Policies Lacking

Page 11 TIPS & TREASURES


TECHNOLOGY COMMUNITY

Any technology organization or company is invited to submit brief articles via fax or e-mail to:
CU Business Advancement Center,
5353 Manhattan Cir., Suite 202, Boulder, CO 80303.
Phone (303) 554-9493 ext. 13 Fax (303) 554-9605
e-mail:
Karen Eye


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