Red biotechnology is a branch of biotechnology that deals specifically with human health care and methods of treatment through the development of medicines such as antibiotics. The field can also involve research into the manipulation of genes through germ line engineering at the embryonic stage or gene therapy in adult patients. The focus of red biotechnology is usually in the pharmaceutical sector, where it is estimated that 80% of all biotechnology discoveries are made as of 2011.
Biotechnology in general has become a very broad based field of scientific research as of 2011, spanning the range of development for genetic engineering, medical drugs and implants, and the cultivation of cells, tissues, and organs for research and treatment of disease or injury. This has resulted in the field being broken down into several sub-fields identified by color, including green, blue, white, and gray biotechnology. Blue biotechnology is confined to the marine environment, while green biotechnology is focused on agricultural applications. White biotechnology has an industrial base that involves organic enzymes and the processes that they facilitate, and gray biotechnology has a similar basis, where cells and natural organisms are used to create synthetic compounds.
China is seen as a leading research arena in the red biotechnology field, and is involved in developing everything from blood-related products to vaccines and drugs that affect the body at a genetic level. The nation, as of early 2010, was marketing over 20 blood products to the international community such as immunoglobulin. Research includes production of diagnostic agents in the top three major fields of immunology, molecular diagnostics, and biochemical diagnostics, as well as the study of stem cells, antibody treatments, and more. Worldwide, China is also the leading producer of vaccines, producing millions of doses annually.
Since red biotechnology has both pure research as well as practical medical applications, it often is founded upon the laboratory production of basic biological materials. Proteins, gene expression, and antibodies are studied as vectors that can be used to create genetically-modified cells or entire organisms, such as yeast or bacteria, that can be engineered to generate drugs and insulin to treat diabetes patients. Proteins have also been altered to encourage enzyme production in hamster cells that can be used in treating human heart disease. Increasingly, the development of such drugs, as in the cancer treatment field, are extremely toxic in normal-sized doses and must be administered in minute, carefully-controlled quantities to be effective medical treatments. This makes the field of nanotechnology research for drug delivery an important aspect of red biotechnology as well.
The field of red biotechnology involves creating new forms of drugs or cellular treatments for age-old diseases such as tuberculosis and resistant strains of malaria or viruses that don't respond to traditional antibiotics. It is an inclusive field of research that involves basic science into biological processes, diagnostic methods for detecting disease, and treatments in both conventional forms, such as medicine, or advanced forms, such as genetic manipulation. Red biotechnology uses this tiered approach to try to tackle some of the most widespread ailments of humankind, from hepatitis and AIDs to suppressing resistant strains of the influenza virus.