Biotechnology is not an invention of modern times. Already several thousand years ago, people used yeast to make beer and wine or processed milk to produce cheese and curd. Yet biotechnology can be considered as a very modern way to meet the challenges of the 21st century: dwindling raw material resources, demographic change, climate change and energy supply. The extent of these problems affects the whole society, in particular the industry. The existing industrial processes are still mainly based on oil, whose amount decreases continually. Therefore new alternative energy sources and natural resources have to be found. Biotechnology can offer solutions to solve these problems.
Whether water-repellent leaves of the lotus plant or cobwebs that are elastic and at the same time hard as steel - nature provides many mechanisms that are worth to be copied. The structure and mode of action of cells, for example, can be a crucial model for biotechnology. It is time now to make use of this model for careful analysis and imitation.The knowledge thus gained will eventually be merged with engineering principles and transferred to technical applications allowing the development of industrially useful alternatives to the living cell.
The first step on the road towards a "transparent cell" will be the understanding and description of the cellular processes. By understanding which metabolic processes take place in a cell, one can try to copy and recreate them. Thus, scientists are no longer depending on the natural occurrence of certain compounds but can actively use nature’s skills in their favour. This can be an enormous advantage in the identification and production of novel medical drugs.