University of Technology Sydney

91142 Biotechnology

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science: Life Sciences
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Recommended studies:

91161 Cell Biology and Genetics


Biotechnology can be defined as the use of biological systems (whether living cells or cell components) for the efficient manufacture or processing of products that help improve lives and the health of the planet. The biological processes of microorganisms have been exploited for thousands of years to make useful food products, such as bread and cheese, and to preserve dairy products. Modern biotechnology uses these traditional practices of fermentation for the industrial production of many compounds such as vaccines, hormones, antibiotics and enzymes. The genomic era has provided information allowing for the controlled and deliberate manipulation of genes for the production of recombinant medical and industrial products and in the synthesis of novel crops to respond to emerging pressures on global food supplies and for the management of pests and diseases. Genetic manipulation has also been applied to microorganisms used in bioremediation processes to enhance the removal of toxic contaminants from soil or groundwater. However, biotechnology is more than just innovative research and discovery; in reality it is a hybrid of business and science. Biotechnology is about translating research ideas into products on the market; making money out of molecules.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Articulate the biotechnology processes involved in synthesising food products and recombinant proteins; in the use of gene therapy; in the isolation and manipulation of stem cells
2. Apply biotechnology processes to propose better diagnosis and treatment of disease
3. Design a scientific protocol to control the growth of different algae in a mixed culture
4. Critically evaluate experimental findings and communicate outcomes through a formal scientific report
5. Appraise the market potential of a novel biotechnology product and translate this to a business, non-scientific audience in the form of an oral pitch

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:

  • Explain how current and emerging molecular biotechnologies can be used to pioneer better health care or help solve or otherwise address environmental issues, and to evaluate and integrate economic and scientific strategies that influence the translation of new biotechnology products to the marketplace. (1.1)
  • Critically evaluate information from sources such as databases and published literature to identify novel research ideas and apply strategic and creative reasoning to find solutions or articulate issues related to biotechnology. (2.1)
  • Articulate the role and place of bio-business in the economy, with due consideration of global risk perceptions and the legal and regulatory requirements in biotechnology. (3.1)
  • Demonstrate a confident independence to identify problems or unmet needs and act to find innovative and creative solutions with an understanding of the social, disciplinary, economic, and contextual barriers. (4.1)
  • Display effective and appropriate professional communication skills (oral, written, visual) in order to pitch ideas, generate defensible, convincing arguments or transmit research findings within a multi-disciplinary setting. (5.1)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

1. Disciplinary knowledge

The use of biotechnology in the production of food, medical products and algae is reviewed in lectures, tutorials, workshops and practicals. The key learning concepts from these topics are assessed through case studies and a practical report.

The commercialisation of an invention underpins the biotechnology industry today. Your understanding of the translation of biotechnology processes/products to market will be demonstrated in an oral pitch that will be questioned and assessed by a panel of biotechnology investors

2. Research, inquiry and critical thinking

(a)The use of case studies in tutorials will provoke inquiry and conceptual thinking beyond simple recall of facts. The assessment of solutions presented in each case will test the depth of inquiry.

(b) The ability to research a topic and apply the knowledge gained to experimental design will be developed in the algal biotechnology practical session. Students will take responsibility for selecting the growth conditions that they believe will support the growth of a specific microalgae from a mixed culture and correctly design the experiment to support their hypothesis.

(c) The application of critical thinking will be developed through the critical analysis of experimental findings, evaluation of the experimental design and discussion of these in a written report.

(d)The development of logical thought and problem solving skills are critical to scientific practise. These skills are learned through completion of the practical project. The experimental outcomes will be used to justify their experimental design in a written report which is assessed according to detailed criteria. During tutorial sessions students will be presented with a series of case studies or experimental questions to solve in medical biotechnology and assessed according to their ability to present the most appropriate solution.

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility

(a) Criteria for marking the written scientific report will assess generic research skills such as the ability to gather, evaluate and use information gathered from sources such as databases and research articles.

(b) Teamwork is fostered as students develop a commercially viable biotechnology product during a series of workshops. Company positions and tasks will be delegated amongst team members to ensure successful completion within the time frame. Regular group discussion will be required to develop the final pitch. Each individuals contribution to the project will be assessed by their peers using the online program SPARK.

(c) Ethics and professional conduct in science is learned through practicals and workshops, which include a full discussion on the reasons against and consequences of data fabrication and plagiarism. The ethical implications of biotechnology is also discussed during lectures

(d) Prior to working in the laboratory students will be tasked with completing a lab induction to introduce the expectations of working in a PC2 laboratory. To demonstrate a full understanding of this, students will be required to pass an online quiz and complete a risk assessment of the practical before starting experimental work.

(e) Self-discipline is learned through active participation in tutorials which require the completion of pre-class work and in-class discussion of selected topics. The extent of preparation and participation is indirectly assessed through the graded case studies.

(f) In creating a unique biotechnology product, evaluating the consumer population and assessing the market potential, you will develop an understanding of how science underpins society, the applications of science in different cultures. This project will also enhance your ability to identify and engage with current and future challenges

4. Reflection, Innovation, Creativity

(a)The ability to make effective judgements about one’s own work will be developed during practical classes where examples of poor to exemplar scientific reports will be evaluated according to the grading criteria. The quality of self-assessment will be determined as part of the report submission process

(b) The ability to engage with, and act on feedback from your peers regarding your own performance will be developed during the commercial group project.

(c) The development of a theoretical, commercial viable biotechnology product will require attributes of creativity and conceptualised thinking. The innovation of the commercialisation strategy taken by the student company for their product is one of the criteria assessed by the investor panel.

5. Communication

(a) Excellence in written scientific communication is developed through the process of writing a practical report. Clear and logical writing that follows standard practise in scientific communication will be assessed according to detailed marking criteria. The written communication of the design, implementation and analysis of an experimental procedure will also be assessed.

(b) Oral communication skills will be developed and practised during the company project in which students will work together in teams to develop a hypothetical biotechnology product. The innovation, patent position and market value of the product will be communicated to a panel of non-scientific biotechnology investors via an oral pitch followed by a Q&A session. Several criteria will be assessed including clarity of delivery, presentation style and ability to deal with questions.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject is delivered through online lectures, online workshops, practicals and independent learning activities. As biotechnology is such a current and changing field there is no textbook to accompany this subject. Instead all supporting literature is either provided during classes or made available through UTS online.

Typically, you will be expected to attend University and/or online classes for 4-6 hours per week.

Food biotechnology: This element of the subject will be delivered through a series of online presentations. This will provide information with regard to the historical perspective of biotechnological processes and how these contribute to the production of food. Your understanding of this will be assessed via an online quiz.

Medical Biotechnology: There are no lectures for this aspect of the subject. All material is initially delivered online in the form of a movie, lecture, scientific report or discussion paper. You are expected to view this material in the week prior to each tutorial session. During the tutorial, you (with the support of the tutor) will use the information delivered online to work through case studies or experimental questions.

Algal Biotechnology: The content for this section will be delivered through a combination of lecture and practical classes and supported by the provision of literature on UTS online. During the lecture, you will be introduced to the theory behind the use of algae to produce a range of biotechnology products. Applying the knowledge you gain in this class, combined with the information within the provided literature, you (in groups) will design the experimental conditions to support the growth of a particular species of algae from a mixed culture. Each group will record the growth of their alage over the course of three weeks through a series of biochemical readouts. Upon completion of this experiment, the critical analysis of the outcomes will be facilitated in a tutorial. Based on this session, you will have an opportunity to repeat the experiment; correct any errors in the experimental design; address questions that were not considered the first time etc.

Each student will individually write a scientific report in which they analyse the outcomes and explain how their experimental design influenced the end result. To support this activity, you will be presented with in-class activities to learn how to analyse the data sets and how to present them within the context of a scientific report. The class discussion will also include an in-depth analysis of the rubric used to grade the practical report along with an examination of samples of text/graphs representing the different grades. Based on these discussions, you will be expected to provide a self-assessment of your work in REVIEW for which you will be provided a grade based on how closely your grade matches the tutors.

Commercial Biotechnology: This aspect of the subject is taught through a group project. You will be formed into teams, each representing a new biotech start up company. The first workshop will use a number of exercises to teach you how to work effectively as a team. During this process you will also be tasked with identifying your skill set and reflecting about how you might contribute to the team. This activity will also be completed at the end of the project. During this workshop, you will also be introduced to the online system SPARK, through which you will submit a review of your team members contribution throughout the course of the project.

Each company will be tasked to work together to design a new and innovative biotechnology product. Over a series of workshops the companies will work with industry experts to evaluate the marketability of their product. Specifically, each team will assess patent positioning, regulatory issues, commercial landscape and market evaluation for their product. Using the information and knowledge gained during these workshops each company will produce and deliver a pitch to a panel of biotechnology investors.

Content (topics)

This subject is designed to develop an understanding of the biotechnology industry from the most fundamental aspects to the cutting edge technologies used today, with a focus on the major streams of food, medical and environmental biotechnology. Fundamental aspects such as fermentation, molecular cloning and recombinant protein expression are explained in detail. The more recent influence of the genomic era on the development of medical biotechnology is explored and the current application of biotechnology to a sustainable, green, environment is analysed. The group project which requires the development of a theoretical, potentially commercially viable, biotechnology product will develop knowledge and skills in the areas of science commercialisation, biotechnology regulation, leadership and decision making.


Assessment task 1: Algal Biotechnology Practical Report


This assessment item addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

2. Research, inquiry and critical thinking

3. Professional, Ethical and Social Responsibility

4. Reflection, Innovation, Creativity

5. Communication


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

3 and 4

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1 and 5.1

Type: Laboratory/practical
Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 40%

Demonstrated understanding of biotechnology processes and an ability to place practical outcomes

in this context

Detailed attention to methodology and presentation of data

Correct formatting and layout; according to the instructions given

Quality and use of references

Findings and conclusions clearly presented to a scientific reader

Critical Discussion of experimental findings

Assessment task 2: Medical Biotechnology Case studies


This assessment item addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

2. Research Inquiry and critical thinking

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1 and 2

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1, 2.1 and 3.1

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 30%

Demonstrated understanding of the topic and practical application of knowledge

Assessment task 3: Commercial Pitch


This assessment item addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility

4. Reflection, Innovation and Creativity

5. Communication skills


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1, 3.1, 4.1 and 5.1

Type: Presentation
Groupwork: Group, group assessed
Weight: 30%

Innovation (a new and creative bio-technological approach)

Scientific and Technical Relevance; must fit our current understanding and limitations of science

Understanding of the Commercialisation process: Market Opportunity and IP

Quality of Presentation

Ability to answer questions

Quality of Reflection and quality of peer review

Minimum requirements

Students are strongly recommended to watch all online lectures and attend all online workshops. Attendence at all practical classes (either in person or self paced online) is also strongly recommended. Where students cannot attend live online workshops because of timetable clashes, they must ensure they review the provided material in their own time. Students are required to obtain an overall grade of 50%.

Recommended texts

There is no text book for this subject. All necessary material will be provided through UTS online as videos, web links or reading material