Our world is facing various challenges including climate change, environmental deterioration, energy crisis, shortage of natural resources, threats to public health and well-being, and imbalances in social and economic development. Biotechnology is expected to play important roles in addressing these problems, and to meet the remaining and emerging needs of our society. The Asian Federation of Biotechnology (AFOB) was established as a non-profit organization in 2008 (http://www.afob.org/), to promote co-operation between scientists and engineers from academia and industry for the advancement of biotechnology, to promote the safe, sustainable and beneficial use of natural resources, to improve public perceptions and education, to facilitate exchange of scholars and ideas, and to stimulate innovation and technology transfer with the common goal of advancing biotechnology in Asia and in the rest of the world.
AFOB promotes... the common goal of advancing biotechnology
During the 9th Asia Pacific Biochemical Engineering Conference (APBioChEC, Nov. 24-28, 2009) held in Kobe, Japan, it was decided to continue the tradition of the APBioChEC by establishing the Asian Congress on Biotechnology (ACB) to facilitate an enlarged scope under the newly founded AFOB. At the 9th APBioChEC, two best presentation awards from Biotechnology Journal (BTJ) were offered. The BTJ special issue of the APBioChEC'09 was also published in May 2010 with a great success .
BTJ continues its cooperation with AFOB and ACB with a special issue of articles from selected invited speakers at the congress. In this special issue we present the following 8 articles:
1) Review on “Integration of biomolecules and nanomaterials: Towards highly selective and sensitive biosensors” by Hyun Seok Song and Tai Hyun Park . Highly sensitive and selective biosensors are realized by integrating biomolecules (as recognition elements) and nanomaterial-based sensor platforms. Recent advances in this area are reviewed in this article.
2) Review on “Stem cell culture engineering - process scale-up and beyond” by Wei-Shou Hu and colleagues . The eventual clinical application of stem cells requires transforming cell production from laboratory practices to robust processes. The key to process robustness is not only the control of traditional process variables, but also the sustenance of cells in the desired potency or differentiation state via controlling non-traditional variables (such as signaling pathway modulators).
3) Review on “Metabolic regulation in Escherichia coli in response to culture environments via global regulators and its modeling” by Yu Matsuoka and Kazuyuki Shimizu . The effects of culture environments on cell metabolism via global regulators with sigma factors at a transcriptional regulation level were examined. Quantitative modeling for these regulation mechanisms is critical for efficient metabolic engineering of a cell.
4) Review on “Cancer hyperthermia using magnetic nanoparticles” by Takeshi Kobayashi . Magnetic-nanoparticle-mediated intracellular hyperthermia has the potential to achieve localized tumor heating without any side effects. Recent advances in magnetite nanoparticle-mediated hyperthermia are described in this review.
5) Review on “Economical challenges to microbial producers of butanol: Feedstock, butanol ratio and titer” by Weihong Jiang and colleagues . The authors analyze the main bottlenecks in microbial butanol production and summarize relevant advances from recent reports. They also discuss further needs and directions for developing industrially applicable strains in butanol production.
6) Research Article on “Nitrogen starvation strategies and photobioreactor design for enhancing lipid content and lipid production of a newly isolated microalga Chlorella vulgaris ESP-31: Implications for biofuels” by Kuei-Ling Yeh and Jo-Shu Chang . Microalgae are a potential sustainable source for biodiesel production. The authors report the impact of nitrogen starvation and photobioreactor design on lipid production and CO2 fixation by Chlorella vulgaris ESP-31.
7) Research Article on “Mutation probability of cytochrome P450 based on genetic algorithm and support vector machine” by Dong-Qing Wei and colleagues . According to the principles of a genetic algorithm (GA) and support vector machine (SVM), the authors develop a GA-SVM program and apply it to human cytochrome P450s (CYP450s), important monooxygenases in phase I drug metabolism. The GA-SVM program was established as a powerful tool in optimizing mutation predictive models of nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) of human CYP450s.
8) Research Article on “Evaluating 13C enrichment data of free amino acids for precise metabolic flux analysis” by Hiroshi Shimizu and colleagues . The authors report the 13C enrichment dynamics of free and proteinogenic amino acids in a series of continuous cultures of E. coli. Their results demonstrate the significance of analyzing 13C enrichment dynamics for the precise estimation of metabolic fluxes using free amino acid data.
In addition, the following two articles from authors in Asia are also included in this special issue:
1) Research Article on “Chemically crosslinked chitosan hydrogel loaded with gelatin for chondrocytes encapsulation” by Changyou Gao and colleagues .
2) Research Article on “Synergistic effect of silibinin with antibiotics against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” by Jeong-Dan Cha and colleagues 
We would like to thank all the authors for their contribution to the BTJ special issue
We would like to thank all the authors for their contribution to the BTJ special issue of ACB-2011. We also appreciate the editorial assistance from Dr. Judy Peng, Dr. Uta Göbel, and the support from BTJ's other Editor-in-Chief Prof. Alois Jungbauer. We hope that this special issue is only the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between the AFOB and BTJ.
Prof. Jian-Jiang Zhong, Chair, ACB-2011 Organizing Committee, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)
Prof. Sang Yup Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Biotechnology Journal, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)