The AFOB recently collaborated with Biotechnology Journal (BTJ), publishing a special issue based on the presentations at the first Asian Congress on Biotechnology, held in Shanghai in 2011 . The AFOB-BTJ relationship was made official with the signing of a cooperation agreement in Taiwan . As part of the agreement is the publication of two special issues each year dedicated to the latest research progress in biotechnology from Asia. Even though these special issues are reserved for authors based in Asia, the articles nevertheless undergo the same stringent peer-review as with other papers in BTJ.
...in the first official AFOB special issue we present 11 articles, representing the diverse nature of biotechnology today...
AFOB was established as a non-profit organization in 2008, and currently has 13 member countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. More information about the AFOB can be found online at www.afob.org.
In this first official AFOB special issue we present 11 articles, which demonstrate the diverse nature of biotechnology today, covering topics such as microfluidic devices, high-throughput analysis, biosensors, bio-imaging, tissue engineering, vaccination, gene delivery, gene expression, and cell-free protein synthesis.
Lee and Sung  review recent progress on “organ-on-a-chip” technology, which aims to develop micro-scale mimicry of organ tissues that recapitulate the 3-dimensional structure of the target tissue. Replicating the unique in vivo tissue environment has allowed reproduction of human responses to drugs, and the development of more physiologically realistic disease models . Further development in this field is likely to result in “human-on-a-chip” models, which can be useful for predicting the dynamics of organ-organ interaction and whole-body response to drugs and chemicals.
Also within the wider scope of the medical biotechnology is the research article by Chaisri et al. , who report the expression and purification of a repetitive Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptide, which is subsequently incorporated into electrospun poly(ϵ- caprolactone) (PCL) scaffolds for cell culture. Chaisri et al.  show that the RGD-incorporated scaffolds significantly enhance cell attachment and proliferation of mouse fibroblasts. Na et al.  report the preparation and characterization of ethosomal vesicles containing iodine as computed tomography (CT) contrast agents. The iodine-containing ethosomes prepared in this study showed high CT density and no cytotoxicity to macrophages, indicating that they have potential as CT contrast agents .
On the vaccine front, Lin et al.  report the construction of a recombinant adenovirus vector encoding influenza hemagglutin (rAd-HA) and a flagellin-containing virus-like particle (FliC-VLP) as a potential vaccine. Results show that priming with the rAd-HA vector followed by a FliC-VLP booster induced the highest HA-specific total IgG, IgG1 and IgG2a. This will likely contribute to the development of more effective H5N1 vaccines.
Since the topic microfluidics/nanofluidics was first covered in BTJ in 2011 , much progress has been made. Microfluidics integrated with recent biosensor technologies has resulted in the emergence of point-of-care diagnostics. The micro-scale nature of such systems comes with several advantages, including extremely low sample volumes while simultaneously offering portability. Recent, state-of-the-art techniques of microfluidic biosensing platforms are reviewed by Kumar et al. , who discuss also the challenges and future prospects. An example of the latest research results in microfluidics is provided by Jang et al. , who report a simple method to automate vesosome formation using a microfluidic device and a continuous flow microcentrifuge – this is the first report of such an attempt. The system reported in this work can generate uniformly sized vesosomes, constructed as liposomes inside giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs), just like peas in a pod. The method of automated vesosome generation will provide a facile platform for fabricating multicomponent carriers and model cells .
...BTJ fosters development of enabling tools with the annual “Methods and Advances” special issue...
Industrial biotechnology is another prime topic covered in BTJ. Two papers under the broad theme of industrial biotechnology are included in this Special Issue. Liu et al.  investigated correlation between redox potential (ORP) profiles and gene expression pattern of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Liu et al.'s results indicate that significant changes in gene expression occurred at the periods of 0–6 h and 30–36 h, respectively, highlighting the role of ORP in modulating yeast physiology and metabolism under very-high-gravity ethanol fermentation conditions . Another paper by Lee et al.  reviews the developments in high-throughput analysis of the content of microalgae biomass; microalgae being a promising feedstock for biofuels and bio-based chemical production.
...next AFOB special issues are on “Stem cell and regenerative medicine” and ACB2013 – submissions are open now...
Biotechnology has generated many enabling tools that have led to further discoveries in not only biotechnology, but also in other related disciplines. To foster these discoveries, BTJ dedicates at least one issue each year on these advances (e.g. ). Several papers in this AFOB Special Issue also fit into this category. Zhang et al.  provide a comprehensive review of the latest technological advances in the use of genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors for the tracking of key metabolites, such as ATP, cAMP, cGMP, NADH, reactive oxygen species, sugar, carbon monoxide, and nitric oxide. In addition, Zhang et al.  discuss genetically encoded RNA-based sensors active at the transcription level. Sato et al.  report the development of an efficient in vivo gene delivery system using non-viral DNA. Direct intraparenchymal injection of a solution containing circular plasmid pmaxGFP DNA in adult anesthetized ICR female mice led to green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression within the injected pancreatic portion one day after gene delivery. This gene delivery method to the pancreatic parenchyma may find applications in gene therapy for pancreatic diseases and in investigations of specific gene function in situ .
Synthetic biology is another rapidly expanding field related to biotechnology. With the ability to harness the synthetic power of biology without many of the constraints of cell-based systems, cell-free protein synthesis enables instant creation of protein molecules from diverse sources of genetic information, offering flexibility in system design and manipulability of biological synthetic machinery. Cell-free protein synthesis can also be combined with various man-made devices for rapid functional analysis of genomic sequence, as reviewed by Lee and Kim .
Guest editors are indebted to BTJ's editors, authors, and reviewers for their effort on this Special Issue. Especially the valuable suggestions from Dr. Judy Peng, the Managing Editor of BTJ, are much appreciated. This Special Issue is just the beginning of continuing AFOB special issues, which will be published in Biotechnology Journal twice a year. The next issue is edited by Prof. Byung-Soo Kim and Prof. Jiandong Ding on the topic “Stem cell and regenerative medicine”. Following this will be a special issue based on the best presentations at the 2nd Asia Congress on Biotechnology in New Delhi, India. The two special issues will be published mid 2014 and at the end of 2014 – we look forward to submission from all researchers based in Asia.
Prof. Tai Hyun Park
President of Advanced Institutes of Convergence Technology (AICT), Professor of School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. George Guo-Qiang Chen
Professor of Microbiology and Biomaterials, School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, E-mail: email@example.com