The important versus the exciting: reining contradictions in contemporary biotechnology

Víctor de Lorenzo, Jillian Couto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


The applicability agenda of modern Biotechnology needs no explanation or justification. As any technology, the ultimate value of Biotech is to deliver materials, molecules or processes of interest for the medical, agricultural and environmental market. However, if one takes a look at high‐impact journals or reads grant proposals on topics presented as Biotechnological research, one legitimately wonders when and how the many exciting results and concepts that often make headlines will get close to actual, beneficial uses to society and economy. There is indeed a Valley of Death in terms of funding between original scientific discoveries and applications that is typically punctuated by the scores (1–9) of the so‐called Technical Readiness Level (TLR). But – important as it is – in our opinion, the issue is not just about funding but also about overcoming the conundrum exciting vs. important. The first gets all the attention, receives all funding and it is frequently published in prestigious journals. No surprise that the most creative minds flock to identify and get engaged in exciting endeavours, not the least because of the career benefits involved. However, exciting seminal discoveries in Biotechnology are worth nothing if they are not followed up all the way to technological readiness. Fleming's observations on penicillin had to wait two decades until Florey and Chain figured out ways to scale‐up the production process. But who remembers the last two? In sum, it seems that finding or developing properties with a biotechnological potential is exciting. But scaling up and designing processes is perceived as boring, a sort of second‐level endeavour to be addressed also by second‐level professionals. In this Crystal Ball, we would like to take the opportunity to argue how wrong this is.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-34
Number of pages3
JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
Issue number1
Early online date3 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2019


  • biotechnology
  • funding
  • exciting vs. important


Dive into the research topics of 'The important versus the exciting: reining contradictions in contemporary biotechnology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this