Orientations for biotechnological development, transfer, and application in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Department of Science and Technology, Party Central Committee's Commission for Popularisation and Education
Monday, July 18, 2022 15:17

Communist Review - The Fourth Industrial Revolution (the Industry 4.0) brings profound changes to various sectors, including biotechnology. Based on the core technologies of the Industry 4.0, Viet Nam's biotech industry has made important initial progress, opening up new prospects for development...

Politburo member, National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue visiting and encouraging lab researchers, Institute of Biomedicine and Pharmacy, Military Medical Academy _Photo: Documentary

Biotechnology: A vital element of the Industry 4.0 

Currently, the world and Viet Nam are witnessing dramatic changes in the digital age of the Industry 4.0 and the significant influence of science and technology on areas of human life. The Industry 4.0 has made rapid developments and born increasingly strong impact on countries, accelerating economic restructuring and redrawing the world’s economic map with the increasing role and position for countries of high science, technology and innovation capacity. Knowledge, intelligence, and innovation capacity become essential resources and driving forces for development. The nature of the Industry 4.0 is the application of technology, data science and artificial intelligence in production and life.

The Industry 4.0 has received significant attention from the Communist Party of Viet Nam (CPV), the State of Viet Nam, and the whole society to realize the aspiration for national rapid and sustainable development. This was manifested by Resolution No. 52-NQ/TW dated September 27, 2019 of the 12th Politburo, "On several guidelines and policies for an active participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution" to enhance the renewal process of the growth model, and restructure the economy in association with achieving strategic breakthroughs.

According to the World Economic Forum WEF - ASEAN, the core technologies (basic technologies) of the Industry 4.0 include: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML); advanced robotics and new forms of automation; mobile network; sensors and the internet of things (IoT); blockchain; autonomous vehicles such as cars and drones; new materials; advances in genetics, bioengineering, personalization and precision medicine; new energy sources and storage technology; and quantum computing. Along with these, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that there are 40 advanced technologies of the Industry 4.0 being classified into 4 groups in which biotechnology is classified into group 2 and includes 12 technologies: Synthetic biology; neurotechnology; stem cells; biocatalysts; bioinformatics; biochips and biosensors; precision agriculture; biofuels; personalized medicine; regenerative medicine and tissue engineering; health monitoring technology; and biomedical imaging.

In addition to the development of other industries in the tumultuous period of the Industry 4.0, the biotech industry is considered as one of the fundamental pillars contributing to solving non-traditional security problems such as climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, water depletion, use of ecological weapons, terrorism, epidemics, and free migration... The application of biotechnological achievements into life will open up new "paths" in preventing and solving two of the four current pressing issues in Viet Nam: environmental safety, food safety, and hygiene.

Currently, in the context of the complicated development of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with 5K epidemic prevention and control measures, biotechnology has been making a significant and direct contribution to the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic (research and manufacture of vaccines, medicines, and test kits etc.). Therefore, biotechnology in preventing and controlling the COVID-19 epidemic needs to be viewed from a holistic perspective.

The Party and State have set forth various guidelines and policies on the development and application of biotechnology. On December 24, 1996, the 2nd Plenum of the 8th Central Committee issued Resolution No. 02-NQ/HNTW, which emphasized "by 2020, advanced regional level is to be achieved in key economic sectors like biotechnology,...". On March 4, 2005, the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee issued Directive No. 50-CT/TW “On accelerating the development and application of biotechnology to serve the cause of national industrialization and modernization". The Directive stated that “Biotechnology is a high-tech field basing on life science and combining with technical processes and equipment to create technologies that exploit the living activities of microorganisms for socio-economic development and environmental protection" and gave 3 general goals, 3 big tasks, 9 specific solutions to fulfilling set goals and tasks. Recently, development orientation in the political Report of the 13th National Party Congress has identified "Obtain strong renewal of the growth model, restructure the economy, improve productivity, quality, efficiency and competitiveness of the economy”(1) and “continue to enhance industrialization and modernization based on progress in science, technology, and innovation”(2), including the role of science and technology like biotechnology.  

Key outcomes of the development and application of biotechnology in Viet Nam in the context of the Industry 4.0 in the last period

After 15 years of implementing Directive No. 50-CT/TW, dated March 4, 2005 of the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee, biotech development and application has made specific achievements. The Party leadership and direction on the development and application of biotechnology has been increasingly paid attention to and carried out synchronously and thoughtfully from the central to local levels. Biotechnology is being widely applied, making an essential contribution to the national socio-economic development and creating added value for scientific and technological products, especially in agriculture, processing industry, biomedicine, environmental protection, and national defense and security. Scientific and technical potential for biotechnology has made significant strides. Biotechnological research staff are increasing in quantity and quality. Much focus has been given to the construction of biotechnology laboratories. Investment resources for the development and application of biotechnology are enhanced. Biotechnology has been initially formed and developed in agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, environment, defense and security, especially the processing industry. Mobilize investment from enterprises on research, expanding manufacture and commercializing biotechnological products. Dissemination and education on the development and application of biotechnology in national construction and defense has been promoted both in width and depth, thus helped bring biotechnology knowledge and techniques into production and life. International cooperation in biotechnology continues to be strengthened; numerous bilateral and multilateral cooperation programs, topics and projects with countries having advanced biotechnology background and similar conditions with Viet Nam have been effectively implemented...

Despite the slow development rate compared with that of the world, recent changes in biotechnological applications in agriculture in Viet Nam are worth noting. Currently, it is easy to find farmers using sensor devices to digitize crop factors such as water, humidity, fertilizer or light; thus helps provide an easy and effective crop supervision. Biotechnology under the direction of the Industry 4.0 in plants in Viet Nam has also made numerous changes such as the use of bioinformatics in the identification of new plants, or the application of the super computer that has a server overseas to determine the gene sequence and search for molecular markers related to the crop yield and traits. In addition, cloud computing platforms have also been deployed by some businesses in assessing areas of material, managing relationships with farmers and customers to optimize product value. Biotechnology under the direction of the Industry 4.0 in breeding industry has created a cloned pig breed and applied the new method of genetic evaluation of the pig herd based on the genotypic value by the BLUP method (Best Linear Unbiased Prediction) that is being used in countries with advanced pig breeding. Biotechnology in the direction of the Industry 4.0 helps create fake female giant river prawns with RNA-RNA interference technology and provide materials for production.

Biotechnology, in the direction of the Industry 4.0 in medicine, created a platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) protein to treat diabetic foot ulcers. In addition, monoclonal antibodies that are bioequivalent to Rituximab, Trastuzumab, Etanercept and used to treat some types of cancer and autoimmune diseases, the application of molecular biological techniques in disease diagnosis, and the development of diagnostic products have become an exciting research direction. Recombinant protein technology producing Protein S helped build the technological process and create vaccine against COVID-19. Nanogen company has successfully produced Protein S, and on that basis, made COVID-19 vaccine by the recombinant protein technology at the scale of 10 million doses a year. The vaccine is mass-produced, meeting GMP-WHO standards and safety requirements, generating neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2; being able to prevent COVID-19 through an effective 3-phase clinical trial and awaiting special licensing. 

Biotechnology in the direction of the Industry 4.0 in environmental protection supports the production of super water-absorbent hydrogels through radiation cross-linking of natural polymers and nano silica applied in high-tech and urban agriculture. Antibacterial water filter cartridge, made from polypropylene grafting with acrylic acid chain and combined with silver nano immobilization, has high efficiency in killing pathogenic bacteria (E. coli and Salmonella) in water (over 99%), and potential for application in disinfecting drinking water.

In addition to the positive outcome, the implementation of Directive No. 50-CT/TW and the Party resolution on the development and application of biotechnology still revealed limitations and weaknesses:

Firstly, the implementation, especially the institutionalization of views, guidelines and resolutions of the Party, policies and laws of the State on biotechnology development is still slow. 

Secondly, a number of critical areas of biotechnology are still backward compared to that in the region and the world, failing to meet the increasing demands of socio-economic development, environmental protection, ensuring national defense and security, and raising people's living standards... The application and transfer of technical advances in biotechnology for the people has been ineffective.

Thirdly, bioindustry has not yet become an essential economic - technical sector, or met the requirements of a green and circular economy, or had many large-scale enterprises and factories.

Fourthly, human resources in biotechnology are insufficient for actual needs; the training and use of highly qualified young people in training and research institutions have limitations and shortcomings. Biotechnology research, development, and application have not received appropriate investment to meet requirements and gain efficiency. 

Fifthly, the task of dissemination, education, and spreading knowledge about biotechnology reveals incomprehensiveness and lacks connection between scientists, research institutes, businesses, and people.

Sixthly, resources for international cooperation have not been effectively promoted to expand cooperation projects aiming at improving scientific capability and professional qualification for researchers in biotechnology; some of the world's advanced areas of biotechnology have not yet been approached.

Solutions for the development and application of biotechnology in the context of the Industry 4.0

For a high value-added, sustainable, circular, and environmentally friendly economy, it is an urgent task to improve the potential, efficiency of research, application, development and transfer of the outcome of the Industry 4.0 in general and of biotechnology in particular. In the coming time, Viet Nam's biotech industry needs to focus on developing and applying biotechnology following the trends of the times, such as bioinformatics and artificial intelligence; stem cells and gene therapy; new-generation vaccine technology; neurotechnology; biochips and biosensors; screening and studying the structure and properties of biologically active compounds from natural resources in Viet Nam; precision agriculture and bio-transformation of biomass from agricultural and forestry waste... These are valuable orientations that inherit achievements and apply research results of related industries into biotechnology. To complete these key orientations, it is necessary to focus on implementing some solutions as follows:

Firstly, strengthening the Party leadership and State management over biotechnology development and applying it in production and life under the strong influence of the Industry 4.0. Besides, it is essential to highlight the roles and responsibilities of leaders at all levels and sectors.

Secondly, building and improving mechanisms, policies and laws on the development and application of biotechnology, in which it is necessary to promote the application of the Industry 4.0’s outcomes. Continuing to review, supplement and improve the system of legal documents, mechanisms and policies for the development, applying and transferring technology, specific processes, and standards and regulations of biotechnology; removing obstacles and promoting the application of biotechnology in socio-economic development models. Strengthening capabilities and consolidating the organization of the state management on biosafety; adopting policies to encourage the use of domestic biotech products under Vietnamese brand names; employing and attracting competent biotech workers as well as international researchers and experts to work at science - technology institutions for the development of biotech products in Viet Nam.

Thirdly, promoting the research, development, and build-up of biotechnological potential. Making focused research investment that is connected with socio-economic development. Building an open biotechnological database system on fields and achievements of biotechnological application in socio-economic development; conducting selective research on quality products for the science and technology market, being able to meet the requirements of economic and social development, national defense and security; enhancing research of key areas in biotechnology such as: genes, pharmaceuticals, functional nano products, biomedicine, plant types, domestic animals, and environmental protection solutions. Focusing on training oriented human resources for biotechnology at levels ranging from general to higher and post-graduate education. Have training associated with practical needs and intensified in educating leading experts and different areas of biotechnology. Building 3 standard biotechnology centers in Northern, Central and Southern Viet Nam; drawing investment in building a synchronous and modern system of biotechnology laboratories. Ensuring the early implementation of "Planning the network of institutes, research centres and laboratories on biotechnology to 2030". Improving biotechnology in which priority is given to developing products suitable for mass production and commercialization. Unlocking the potential for biotechnology in the national defense and security to meet the tasks and requirements of protecting the Fatherland in the new setting. 

Fourthly, biotechnological development is to be prioritized to become an economic–technical field that significantly contributes to national economic growth. Formulating policies to support the industrial-scale production of essential biotech products, and giving priority to the transfer of technical advances and new technologies. Building mechanisms and policies to encourage the development of the biotech product market. Increasing investment in the application and development of biotechnology for agricultural and economic transformation, especially in creating new plants and animals of high productivity, quality and economic efficiency; ensuring biological safety and environmental protection for the development of agricultural production. Applying and developing biotechnology in pharmacy, food, fertilizer, and cosmetics... to create new and competitive products for domestic and foreign markets.

Fifthly, running widespread application of the FIR’s outcome in research; achieving effective implementation of biotechnological achievements in socio-economy and national defense. Attaching importance to developing the network of scientific and technical service organizations, and biosafety; promoting the brokerage, transfer, consultation, evaluation and valuation of technology. Promoting the research and application of gene technology in diagnosis, assessment and treatment of diseases, especially dangerous ones; producing recombinant vaccines, recombinant proteins; creating genetically modified plants and microorganisms of high economic value; developing technologies as stem cell technology for diagnosis, treatment and replacement of tissues and organs, cell technology in selecting and creating new varieties, enzyme-protein technology for food and pharmaceutical industry development, industrial-oriented microbiological technology, environmental pollution treatment and application in national defense and security. Speeding up research on biosafety and adopting strict practice of biosafety regulations in the application of biotech products to ensure people's health and life. Attaching special importance to the application of biotechnology in food safety and hygiene, environmental protection and sustainable development; speeding up the application and transfer of biotechnology solutions in pollution treatment, environmental degradation and incidents, ensuring sustainability of the ecosystem. Encouraging the production of new, clean, renewable and environmentally friendly energies for a partial replacement of fossil fuels such as biofuel, bioethanol, biodiesel, and biogas.

Sixthly, enhancing international cooperation in biotechnology. Developing programs and projects in collaboration with countries with advanced biotechnology to take advantage of academic and financial support for biotechnological development in Viet Nam. Strengthening and improving the efficiency of cooperation in biotechnology with domestic and foreign organizations, research institutes, and universities to access, receive and transfer advanced technologies. Enhancing the exchange of information and data, learning from experiences from developed nations in biotechnology, and taking quick mastery of modern technologies to speed up the development and application of advanced biotechnology in Viet Nam.


(1), (2), Documents of the 13th National Congress, Truth National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, chapter I, p. 120, 122

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 981 (January 2022)