UM Biological Engineering Week - Environmentally Friendly Biotechnology

The Bachelor's degree in Biological Engineering will hold conferences, competitions and visits to schools next week in order to anticipate the development of chemical and food technology and new forms of pollution control. These initiatives are part of the "Biological Engineering Week", which runs from the 21st to the 25th of this month, which is part of the program of commemorations of the 25 years of the School of Engineering of the University of Minho (UM).
Manuel Mota, director of the Department of Biological Engineering, sees great developments in the area of ​​health and in the area of ​​new forms of pollution control. Explaining that "the biotechnology of the first half of the twentieth century was focused on the fermentation industry", both in the food industry of cheese, yoghurt, beer and antibiotic production, and in the second half turned to agriculture and Biology, transgenics, hormones and synthetic insulin, he predicts that "in the 21st century biotechnology will be focused on solving the problems of heavy and chemical industries that are highly polluting and harmful to the environment."

Alongside the health sector, which will continue to make very strong progress, "cellulars, industry, tanneries, oil companies and metal-mechanics will be the target sectors of biotechnology and the great beneficiaries of its progress," says Manuel Mota. This UM professor notes that "there is already a lot of technology implemented and pilot experiments going on, so within 10 to 15 years new technologies for waste control and reuse are massively deployed in large industries."

Asked about the degree of interest on the part of the heavy industry in the implementation of the new processes more friendly to the environment, Mauel Mota was optimistic, "since the regulation in the developed countries is very restrictive and the next companies will have economic advantages with many of these Processes - he said.

Artificial Human Fabrics
Human tissue engineering is another cutting-edge area with about 10 years of research that "knows fantastic developments" that seem only to be possible in science fiction - says Luis Marcelo Pereira, who is going to give a conference exactly in this area of ​​research .

"From the isolation and in vitro cell culture of the donor for future use, such as skin for cases of burned cartilage to supply irreversible degenerative processes, to the development of implantable biorectors capable of producing insulin - says Luis Pereira, a researcher at the University of Lisbon , Who will also participate in an open class, "the results that are being published only allow us to foresee what is unimaginable in the near future," concludes the researcher.

Restrictions on transgenics will have consequences
The recent developments in international regulations agreed at the last international meeting in Toronto, Canada, establishing the principle of state sovereignty over the importation of genetically modified foods, is not necessarily positive, since, according to Manuel Mota, "they will certainly have negative consequences. Economic level ".

Regarding the Toronto agreement, which the Portuguese government presented as a victory for the European Union, it is not certain that it has great effects since, the researcher noted, "the US and China did not subscribe to it." As major economic and population powers, respectively, "they may continue to develop trangenics or, in the case of China, import the most developed technology that may exist in other countries", thereby gaining an advantage in international trade.

Involve Secondary Students
Not only scientific problems live the week of biological, mentioning the competitions and questionnaires intended for secondary school students who want to publicize the degree in Biological Engineering and sensitize them to some of the ethical and scientific problems facing scientific research in this area . In this sense, "some final student groups go to schools in the Braga area to tell their experiences and speak from student to student - said Joana Azeredo, teacher of this course.

From the program of the Biological Engineering Week, on Tuesday, the 22nd, the open class "The day-to-day biofilms in the daily life of the human being" will be highlighted at 2:30 pm by Luis Melo and the conference "Engineering of human tissues", which will be delivered at 3:00 pm, by Luis Marcelo Pereira. A scientific paper by Manuel Mota will be presented under the theme "Biotechnology of the next millennium".