BIOTEC has three thematic research programs focusing on the industrial sector, namely Agriculture and Food Biotechnology, Bioresources Technology, and Medical Biotechnology. Platform technologies have been created to strengthen capacity in certain technologies and subsequently provide knowledge platforms for the thematic research programs.
Agriculture and Food Biotechnology
Focus is on research and development of food, plant, and animal biotechnology, with a special emphasis on using biotechnology to improve yield and quality. Plant Biotechnology focuses on three economically important plants: rice, cassava, and oil palm. Animal biotechnology at BIOTEC focuses on shrimp and dairy cow. The aim of this research is to understand the molecular biology of reproductive maturation, growth, and the immune system of the black tiger shrimp in order to improve farming sustainability, including genetic improvement. Food Biotechnology aims to improve and upgrade the processing and quality of fermented food. Three main research areas are food safety and risk assessment, food chemistry, and starter culture technology.
Bioresources Technology focuses on research and development for the preservation, utilization, and conservation of bioresources. The program has a special emphasis on the utilization of biotechnology as a core technology to increase the value of commercial products, such as food and feed products, enzyme products, drug and bioactive compounds, and biocontrol products. Research topics include:
- Taxonomy of microorganisms especially fungi, yeasts, and actinomycetes
- Developing throughput biological assays
- Natural product chemistry
- Pre-pilot scale production of commercially valuable bioproducts
- Enzyme discovery
- Recombinant expression systems
- Biodiversity and ecology of plants, animals, and Microorganisms
Focus is on research and development to advance knowledge on neglected diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and dengue fever, which are still prevalent in Thailand. Malaria research aims to understand the mechanisms of drug resistance and synthesize new drugs. The main strategies involve rational drug design and the synthesis of new effective antimalarials based on the structures of the drug targets. Tuberculosis research focuses on drug target identification, validation, and drug screening. Dengue research focuses on the molecular and immunological processes involved in the pathogenesis of dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and its more severe form, dengue shock syndrome (DSS), and its future application for better diagnosis and prevention of the disease. The two main approaches are the development of dengue infectious cDNA clone models to generate mutant viruses and the application of these models, such as dengue diagnostic technology. In addition, the live attenuated vaccines generated by mutation of selected polyprotein cleavage sites using site-directed mutagenesis are being tested in animal models for their vaccine potential.
Platform technologies focus on building capacity in technologies and subsequently providing knowledge platforms for the thematic research programs. Platform technologies include:
Metagenomic technology. Metagenomics provides a new way of examining the microbial community by using the power of genomic analysis and bypassing the need to isolate and culture individual bacterial community members. In order to search for microbial producing enzymes from the unusual environment for enzyme discovery, metagenomics technology has been recently established to provide a facility for research, especially for a bioresource utilization theme.
Gene expression system for recombinant protein production. BIOTEC aims to develop heterologous gene expression systems in various hosts, such as Bacillus, yeast, and filamentous fungi for production of recombinant proteins, including enzymes. Currently our researchers have successfully developed a Pichia pastoris yeast expression system for surface protein expression. In addition, a multi-copy expression system in yeast is also being developed. This expression technology will play a significant role for the production of valuable products from newly discovered genes.
Genomics technology. The objectives of the Genomics Technology platform are to improve the capacity of genomics and post-genomics research in Thailand, to strengthen the infrastructure and human resources and to facilitate the application for agricultural, medical, industrial, and environmental solutions. Founded in 2007, the Genome Institute focuses on research and development of technologies related to genomics, high-throughput sequencing, proteomics, bioinformatics, and systems biology. The GI also provides scientific assistance in high-performance computing (HPC) as an infrastructure for scientific communities in Thailand. Currently, GI houses the following genomic EST and genomic databases: rice, shrimp, cassava, spirulina and ThaiSNP, accessible through the Internet.
Microarray technology. Microarray is the latest additional technology to complete the study at both gene and gene function levels. BIOTEC’s microarray laboratory is equipped with technologies to fabricate array chips in-house, as well as applying them in various aspects of research and development.