BIOTECHNOLOGY seems to defy easy definition. At least Joan Bennett, PhD, who chaired the recent Second Annual Conference on Biotechnology sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego, thinks so.
Bennett, who is professor of biology at Tulane University, New Orleans, opened the conference by explaining how she had gleaned the writings of lexicographers and semanticists, hoping to find a well-turned phrase that captures the essence of the new discipline. She said that she had come away dissatisfied, and is still working on an economical description that links the diverse enterprises crowded under the umbrella of biotechnology.
Bennett's conundrum became easy to understand during the ensuing three days. Presentations on new agents ran the gamut from anti-idiotype antibodies to xerophobic bacteria and new applications ranged from agricultural to zoological. The presenters appeared to share only one characteristic—a propensity for tinkering with the innards of some type of microbe.