Early biotechnology (BT) had its roots in fascinating discoveries, such as yeast as living matter being responsible for the fermentation of beer and wine. Serious controversies arose between vitalists and chemists, resulting in the reversal of theories and paradigms, but prompting continuing research and progress. Pasteur's work led to the establishment of the science of microbiology by developing pure monoculture in sterile medium, and together with the work of Robert Koch to the recognition that a single pathogenic organism is the causative agent for a particular disease. Pasteur also achieved innovations for industrial processes of high economic relevance, including beer, wine and alcohol. Several decades later Buchner, disproved the hypothesis that processes in living cells required a metaphysical 'vis vitalis' in addition to pure chemical laws. Enzymes were shown to be the chemical basis of bioconversions. Studies on the formation of products in microbial fermentations, resulted in the manufacture of citric acid, and chemical components required for explosives particularly in war time, acetone and butanol, and further products through fermentation. The requirements for penicillin during the Second World War lead to the industrial manufacture of penicillin, and to the era of antibiotics with further antibiotics, like streptomycin, becoming available. This was followed by a new class of high value-added products, mainly secondary metabolites, e.g. steroids obtained by biotransformation. By the mid-twentieth century, biotechnology was becoming an accepted specialty with courses being established in the life sciences departments of several universities. Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, BT gained the attention of governmental agencies in Germany, the UK, Japan, the USA, and others as a field of innovative potential and economic growth, leading to expansion of the field. Basic research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology dramatically widened the field of life sciences and at the same time unified them considerably by the study of genes and their relatedness throughout the evolutionary process. The scope of accessible products and services expanded significantly. Economic input accelerated research and development, by encouraging and financing the development of new methods, tools, machines and the foundation of new companies. The discipline of 'New Biotechnology' became one of the lead sciences. Although biotechnology has historical roots, it continues to influence diverse industrial fields of activity, including food, feed and other commodities, for example polymer manufacture, biofuels and energy production, providing services such as environmental protection, and the development and production of many of the most effective drugs. The understanding of biology down to the molecular level opens the way to create novel products and efficient environmentally acceptable methods for their production.
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