Biotechnology has been practiced since the beginning of recorded history. Baking bread, brewing alcoholic beverages, and breeding food crops or domestic animals all involve biotechnology. Recent developments in molecular biology have given biotechnology new meaning, new importance, and new potential. It is “modern biotechnology” that has captured the attention of the public. Modern biotechnology can have a dramatic effect on the world economy and society. It is a broad collection of tools and these tools can be applied for a range of different purposes (e.g. genetic improvement of plant varieties and animal populations to increase their yields or efficiency; genetic characterization and conservation of genetic resources; disease diagnosis and vaccine development; improvement of feeds).
Some of the technologies may be applied to all the food and agriculture sectors, such as the use of molecular DNA markers or genetic modification, while others are more sector-specific, such as vegetative reproduction (crops and forest trees), embryo transfer and freezing (livestock) or triploidization and sex reversal (fish).
Ethiopia is a country where more than 85% of the population is rural and makes their daily lives on agricultural outputs. According to Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation (FAO) biotechnology provides powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the food industry and that when appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, agricultural products and services, it can be of significant assistance in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population.
Education is undisputedly recognized as the bedrock of any meaningful development. Higher education and training in Ethiopia though is started over 50 years ago, it still remains highly underdeveloped. Nevertheless, it remains crucial for the production of vital human resources, such as teachers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, engineers, managers, businessmen, and researchers critical for socio-economic development of a nation. Furthermore, higher education is a centre for knowledge and skills creation, adaptation and dissemination. It also plays a significant role in providing relevant and quality community and public services. Higher education is, therefore, critical for economic progress, political stability and peace, as well as building democratic culture and cohesive societies.
The National Educational Policy of Ethiopia states the need for functional education, to be relevant, practical and acquisition of appropriate skill and the development of competencies as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of his society. This means that the quality of instruction at all levels has to be oriented towards inculcating the values of acquisition of competencies necessary for self-reliance and reducing poverty. By understanding the potential of the discipline in transforming the lively hood of the nation’s citizen the University of Gondar management put Biotechnology as a priority area and establish the department of Biotechnology in 2005. The department admits fifty students and started teaching the discipline. Since then more than 400 students has graduated and they are serving the nation at different public and private institutes. In 2011 the department has launched M.Sc. program in four fields of study at these programs more than 40 students has been graduated and they are serving at different public institutes and higher learning institutes that has launched B.Sc. program after our department. That includes of Axum, Debermarkos, Bahirdar, Deberberhan, Adigerat, Mekele, Welkitie, Addis Ababa Science and technology, Jigjig, Ministry of Science and technology, Ministry of Environment, forest and climate change, the institute of Biodiversity, Ethiopian Biotechnology institute. Among research centre the graduates of the then department are serving in Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute, Amhara Public health institute, Mekel Biotechnology center (tissues culture), Holeta Agricultural Research centre, Deberziet Agricultural research center and in other regional, Zonal and Wereda public offices as a civil servant. In the year 2016 PhD curriculum in four fields of study has been approved by the university senate and the then department has admitted four students in 2017. On December 1 2017, the University senate has approved the upgrading of the department into an Institute level. Since then the institute is striving for excellence in academia, research, and community service and technology transfer issues.