Top 5 Emerging Trends In Biotech
Since the dawn of time, human beings and diseases have been sworn enemies. While diseases find comfort in attacking and infecting healthy body cells, humans have sworn to protect, cure and also prevent themselves from such unwelcome attacks. The Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used herbal medicine to fight diseases whereas Hippocrates and the Ancient Greeks pioneered the study of human anatomy and also made conclusive advancements in the area of Medicine. The Ancient Romans were also a precursor in this area too with great contributions coming from experts such as Galen and Celsus.
Over time, disease outbreaks coupled with wars underlined the great importance of medicine. The infamous 14th century Black Death wiped an estimated 75 to 200 million people from the face of the earth whereas; the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 killed a further 20 million to 40 million people. These outbreaks called for action towards development and advancements in medicine – from Alexander Fleming and his discovery of Penicillin in 1923 to the first human liver being grown from stem cells in Japan in 2013.
The discovery of the DNA in 1953 was a huge milestone in the field of medicine. Since its discovery, there have been tremendous advances in the vast area of biotechnology. From genetically engineered medicines, such as insulin and human growth hormone, to shedding light in understanding, curing and preventing inherited diseases. All these developments have contributed immensely to the continued research and development in Biotech.
Today there is thousands of life-saving R&Ds being done in different areas including Cell Therapies and Regeneration Medicine, Neuroscience, Immuno-oncology and Marijuana legalization. All this research has over the past few decades opened up different opportunities for startup and many different entities committed towards the development of new curative and/or preventive measures in the Biotech industry.
These are the top 5 emerging trends in the Biotech industry. They include:
- Exosomes in Cancer Nanomedicine and Immunotherapy
The cure for cancer is yet to be discovered, however, there have been significant developments in R&D of cancer drugs, vaccines, and therapies. The latest comes in the way of Exosomes – versatile, cell-driven nanovesicles with the ability to surmount biological barriers and deliver prodigious amounts of bioactive molecules to specific recipient tissues. This technique has developed exciting approaches in drug delivery and cancer immunotherapy.
The technology applied involves bioengineered exosomes which are deployed in specific areas of the body vested with cancer cells. The exosomes then deliver potent tumoricidal drugs containing siRNAs and chemotherapeutic compounds to the affected areas. There have also been encouraging progress in the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines based on reports collected from the early stages of clinical trials of the drug.
Due to their endogenous functionalities, exosomes have given researchers from all over the world a new way of targeting and effectively destroying cancerous cells. The approach is believed it can be applied to activate adaptive and innate effector cell-mediated cancerous cells in the robust fight of the disease.
Understandably, optimal cancer treatment ways on the ability to effectively target and destroy cancer cells while at the same time warding off the risk of damaging healthy tissues. Using exosomes, we can now target specific cancer cells with minimized damage to normal healthy body cells. This way, therapies can be more effective and end results more encouraging.
There is no denying that the field is still young but recent clinical trials have produced encouraging results. So, it almost feels like it is a matter of “when” and not “if” we will conquer cancer. In a few years time, there could yet be approved vaccines, drugs, and therapies that will have been developed to combat and cure cancer. Therefore, Exosomes in cancer nanomedicine and immunotherapy is certainly braised to leave flattering effects in the Biotech industry.
- Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine
The progressive nature of the area of Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine has given mankind a reason to hope. Despite the common analogy of “Do not play God,” researchers seem to have eclipsed this phrase and attempted what no one had ever attempted before. Often associated with make-believe stories or the sci-fi movies that we are mostly accustomed to, it has now become a reality that today we can rebuild and replace damaged organs.
This obviously comes after years of intense research in this of regenerative medicine. However, the breakthrough came when Nobel Prize winners and scientists, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon engineered the T-cells. Their research involved reprogramming mature cells to become pluripotent also known as the T-cells. T-cells can be thought of as blank disks to which you can program just about anything on them. Through this discovery, we can now combat dangerous diseases such as cancer more effectively and also regenerate lost body tissues and organs.
Dr. Yamanaka’s research was just a stepping stone because of today, there are a plethora of research companies fully committed to developing the next generation of regenerative therapies. Researchers in Ohio, United States, created stomach organoids that can be used for transplant. Scaled Biolabs focused all their efforts in developing kidney organoids in labs whereas United Therapeutics are more focused on growing humanized organs in Xenograph models such as pigs. Oneskin is focused on regenerating the human skin. All these research companies and hundreds more are working day and night trying to engineer new advances in biotech, bring hope to mankind while also shed some light on the direction we might be taking in the future.
Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine has come a long way but recent developments are not only encouraging but also very exciting. It is very interesting to imagine what further expansive studies and application of the T-cells might bring. A human heart perhaps? Or maybe new eyes? It is exciting to imagine that sometime in the future we will be able to re-grow different body parts and reattach them to our bodies. This can only be possible if we continue supporting all these organizations embroiled in the extensive researches.
The human brain is often considered the most complex and yet intricate organ in the human body. Scientist and researchers alike have spent years trying to study the human brain in efforts that they will be able to understand how it works. However, understanding fully how the human brain functions are like stumbling on the Holy Grail. The achievement would be considered by many as the next frontier in Neuroscience.
Having said that, scientists and researchers have not given up – not at all! They have continued to develop new techniques for designing, delivering and reinforcing training. To this effect, the Neuroscience industry has continued to grow and expand within and outside the biotech industry.
Today, it is one of the fastest growing areas in the Biotech industry. Its market was valued at USD 24.09 billion in 2013 and is projected to grow at 2.9% CAGR throughout 2020. Some of the key growth attributes associated with this data includes the continued research in brain mapping techniques which will help us better understand how the brain works.
Research Centers, Laboratories, and Academic Institutes are the biggest pioneers in this industry with a key interest in projects tested on animals to give some insights in the functionality of the brain. For instance, researchers in Taiwan were able to sequence a little under half of a tiny fruit fly’s brain with single neuron resolution over the last 10 years. The research encompassed 60,000 neurons with a resolution of 1 gigabyte each. If the same was to be applied to a human brain, it would take 17 million years to image the human brain in its entirety.
All hope is not gone though because progressive technological advancements have proved that everything is possible. Continued research on other species coupled with better resolution technologies from MRI’s, CAT scans and EEG’s have resulted in dramatically improved in understanding our brain.
The Neuroscience industry is practically throwing everything it’s got on the way of understanding how the human brain functions. These developments will help us better understand and treat diseases such as depression, PTSD, Alzheimer’s and other mood and anxiety disorders. Clinical trials on previously banned drugs such as LSD, Psilocybin, Ketamine, and other psychoactive compounds have produced encouraging results.
- Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare
Albert Einstein’s third law of motion changed everything we knew then, and also today. Technological Advancement is at full speed whereas Artificial Intelligence is swiftly finding its way in the biotech industry.
It is safe to admit that machine learning has officially penetrated the biotech industry. At the start of 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US approved applications that could help better understand the human heart and make diagnostic heart conditions. For instance, one of the applications – the artery system – takes an average of 15 seconds to produce a result; the same diagnosis would have taken a doctor up to an hour to produce the same result. Evidently, AIs are braised to save lives.
Different companies have given a lot of focus on development and deployment of machine learning AIs. Companies like Medel.ai are focusing on unleashing their machine learning AIs on understanding individual cancer cases and recommending clinical trials which will then pave way for treatment prescriptions, a milestone that is yet to be achieved by oncologists. Other companies focused on applying AIs on their research include Atomwise, GEA enzymes and A2A. All these companies are devoted fully to applying artificial intelligence and machine learning in hopes of finding new ways of fighting the most notorious diseases.
Machine learning is only beginning to break ground in the biotech industry. Continued research in this area is showing promising results while also underlying the great potential it carries. Recent applications to test hypothesis such as finding novel regenerative pathways in planarium worms and salamanders offer us a glimpse of what the future might hold.
- Marijuana Legalization and Biotech
Words like, “You are a pothead!” were often viewed as derogatory. Today Marijuana legalization is at full throttle making words that were once viewed with much disdain seem not too shabby. The Biotech industry is expanding its reach in research, application, and utilization of Cannabis for its medicinal properties.
When this is happening, different countries, states, and institutions are also legalizing the once maligned plant. I guess it is now safe to say the Dutch knew what they were doing all along. Of late, we have seen countries like Uruguay, Mexico, and up to 28 States in the US legalize marijuana either for medicinal purposes or recreational or even both. Canada has also introduced a legislation that would legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana by as early as 2018.
When this entire buzz is happening, medicinal marijuana has been around the block for some time now. Biotech companies such as Laguna Blends offer coffee infused with hemp protein whose health benefits are far reaching. From improved immune system and metabolism to reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, the applications are endless. There are also hemp protein supplements that you can buy off the counter.
In retrospect, Cannabis has already had a damning effect on the Biotech industry; however, the continued legalization of marijuana is going to open more opportunities for startups to enter the market and continue expanding this industry. The movement is bound to rattle the industry while effectively expanding areas of research in the efficacious nature of cannabinoids. This will also make for a good engagement with positive results illuminated towards the biotech industry.
The Biotech industry forms an integral part of our existence. Where we are today and where we will be tomorrow weighs entirely on how we continue to invest in R&D and new technologies such as the AIs. Recent developments in biotechs tell us that cure for cancer is very close. In addition, further research and application in T-cells and stem cells research also open us to a whole new realm of possibilities. From regenerating a brand new liver to growing organoid kidneys – the applications go as far as your imagination.