Book review: An Introduction to Molecular Biotechnology: Fundamentals, Methods, and Applications (2nd edition)


An Introduction to Molecular Biotechnology: Fundamentals, Methods, and Applications (2nd edition), Michael Wink (Editor), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, Germany, 2011, 636 pages. ISBN 978-3-527-32637-2

Sang Yup Lee*, * Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, Korea

original image

Rapid advances have been made in the fields of molecular and cellular biology over the past several decades. Also, we are observing increasing number of successful applications of red (medical), white (industrial), and green (agricultural) biotechnologies based on these advances. The completely updated second edition of “uo;An Introduction to Molecular Biotechnology: Fundamentals, Methods, and Applications” edited by Michael. Wink covers all the important topics of molecular and cellular biology together with their integrated applications in red, white, and green biotechnologies. This book is composed of four parts.

The first part (Part I) is on the fundamentals of cellular and molecular biology, which contains six chapters starting with the basics of the cell and fundamental knowledge on cellular machineries. This is a short yet nicely structured general introduction to the basics of life. Considering that this book is already at more than 600 pages, it is not possible to cover all the topics; however, it would have been informative to include a chapter on basic metabolism and related biochemical information.

The second part (Part II) composed of 14 chapters covering most important methods, procedures, and supporting theories to perform modern molecular biotechnology research. Isolation and purification of proteins, DNA, and RNA as well as their analyses through mass spectrometry, chromatography and electrophoresis are covered in four chapters. A complete chapter is dedicated to the topic of nucleic acid hybridization as it is important for genetic diagnosis as well as microarray studies. Two chapters cover the enzymes used for the manipulation of nucleic acids and polymerase chain reaction. Taking into account the ever increasing importance of DNA sequencing, one chapter describes fundamentals and methods of DNA sequencing including whole genome sequencing. It is very well written and all encompassing – although the book would have benefited from a chapter on next generation sequencing.

“short yet nicely structured general introduction to the basics of life”

The next two chapters cover gene cloning and expression. There is no way to include all the details of gene expression systems in a single chapter, and thus this chapter can only be used as a general guideline for the readers. This book attempted to include a chapter on studying membrane physiology, especially studying ion channels by patch clamp method. It is a nicely written, although short, chapter, and could have been better if other techniques for studying membrane physiology are also included. The next chapter on cell cycle analysis is also rather short, but serves well as a summary of the subject. The next two chapters cover microscopic and laser techniques including new methods for studying individual and multiple cells as well as biomolecules within.

original image

The third part (Part III) titled as “key topics” indeed covers important topics in modern biotechnology. It starts with a comprehensive coverage of genomics and functional genomics. Readers will be pleased to see some more description on genome sequencing in this chapter. Bioinformatics is an essential discipline in biology and biotechnology, and thus one chapter is devoted to bioinformatics. Although it must have been challenging to cover whole bioinformatics in a single chapter, authors did a nice job in covering all the important topics and algorithms. One new chapter on systems biology is a big change from the 1st edition. Following a brief introduction, both top-down approaches and bottom-up approaches to analyzing metabolic and cellular networks are described. Also, a separate chapter devoted to protein-protein and protein-DNA interaction studies is included. The following seven chapters cover important topics of red biotechnology. Two chapters are devoted to drug discovery and targeting, while one chapter covers modern molecular diagnostics. Production and applications of antibodies and their fragments together with phage display technique are described in one chapter, taking into account the increasing importance of antibodies as therapeutic agents as well as diagnostic molecules. This is followed by two chapters covering transgenic animal (mice) and gene therapy. The red biotechnology topic ends with the concepts and applications of RNA interference and peptide nucleic acids. The last two chapters of Part III cover “plant biotechnology” as an important field of green biotechnology and “biocatalysis in the chemical industry” as part of white biotechnology. The chapter on white biotechnology is accompanied with 8 case studies, which should be useful for readers to follow up on enzymatic conversion processes as well as fermentative chemicals production.

original image

The last part (Part IV) covers in six chapters biotech business issues, legal and ethical issues, drug approval process in the EU and the USA, brief history of biotechnology development and emergence of biotech companies, and even how to start a company and marketing. The last part is truly unique in this kind of textbook/reference.

“The book is a must read for modern bioscientists and biotechnologists and those who want to become one”

As briefly described above, this book covers very broad topics from the fundamentals to the applications of molecular biotechnology. If I may be so demanding, I might point out that several important topics such as cellular metabolism, metabolic engineering, nanobiotechnology, and fundamental bioprocess technology (at least an introduction) are missing (too brief). Overall, however, I am very satisfied with the contents of this book (I wish I could have edited such a nice book!), and would like to recommend it to both undergraduate and graduate students alike who want to quickly yet thoroughly learn the fundamentals and many applications of molecular biotechnology. Also, this book will be a nice and smooth reading for professors, researchers, and professionals in the field of bioscience and biotechnology to stay up-to-date, and for those who wish to catch up with the recent developments in molecular biotechnology. In conclusion, this book is a must read for modern bioscientists and biotechnologists and those who want to become one.

original image

Biographical Information

original image

Michael Wink, Image: Hentschel

Michael Wink studied biology and chemistry in Bonn at the Rheinische Friedrich University and was awarded his doctorate from TU Braunschweig in 1980. After gaining his lecturing qualification in 1984/1985, he was awarded a Heisenberg grant by the German Research Council to work at the Max Planck Institute for Breeding Research in Cologne and from then at the Gene Center of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. Following the position as Chair for Pharmaceutical Biology at Mainz University in 1988, he accepted the post of Professor for Pharmaceutical Biology at Heidelberg University one year later. Between 2002 and 2004 he was the founding and managing director of the Institute for Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology, and Dean from 2001 to 2005 for the new and popular course (BSc, MSc) in molecular biotechnology offered by the university. Professor Wink's areas of interest include pharmaceutical research, molecular biotechnology, and medicinal plants, as well as research into secondary metabolites and evolution.