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Latest Trends and Discoveries in Biotechnology

By Devin Logan on 2017-01-29

Biotechnology, a field that uses technology and innovation to improve medicine, is growing at an unprecedented rate. Latest trends indicate a move to personalized treatment and prevention techniques, as well as research on possible treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.



Biotechnology, a field that uses technology and innovation to improve medicine, is growing at an unprecedented rate. Latest trends indicate a move to personalized treatment and prevention techniques, as well as research on possible treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
 
Chrono Therapeutics, a biotech startup in the San Francisco Bay Area, uses an integrative approach to addiction. Chrono’s nicotine cartridges specifically time nicotine release to correspond with intense cravings. Many smokers experience strong morning cravings. Chrono’s product precludes this urge, incorporating the individual user’s wake time and releasing nicotine before that time. Throughout the day, the other nicotine releases occur after meals, when cravings are often stronger.
 
Chrono’s product comes in the form of a cartridge. Users wear this small, discrete cartridge anywhere on their body (the device includes adhesive). There are three types of devices: high, medium, and low. Over the course of the 10-week treatment plan, users “step down,” gradually requiring less nicotine. The cartridges connect to the user’s smartphone, providing updates and reminders in real time and helping the user stay engaged and committed to the program. The user can share these updates with friends and family, increasing accountability; however, the user has full control over sharing capacities and privacy settings.
 
When experiencing cravings, the user presses a button on the device. This button activates a clinical coaching program on the smartphone application that provides motivation at exactly the right moment.
 
Chrono is in the middle of Phase 2 clinical trials; their product is pending FDA approval. As of September 2016, the company raised almost $50 million in venture capital. In individualizing medication and treatment, Chrono is also capitalizing on a key trend in biotechnology. In the future, look to see higher degrees of treatment individualization in the biotechnology industry.
 
The biotech field has seen a lot of technological developments aimed at Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease that affects over 3 million people in the United States every year. Yumanity Therapeutics, a biotech firm based in Cambridge, MA, pioneers research on neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Yumanity focuses on protein misfolding, which causes nerve damage and destruction. Last year, the firm raised $45 million in venture capital to conduct research on the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s. Yumanity developed Integrated Discovery Platforms that allow researchers to vacillate between yeast cell research and human neuron research, comparing cell pathologies and speeding up research. Yumanity hopes these drug discovery platforms with produce better-informed drug development.
 
 
Many biotech firms aim to streamline complex and expensive medical processes like surgery and tissue and organ transplants. Aspect Biosystems, a Vancouver-based biotech firm, experiments in the field of “3D bioprinting.” The firm hopes to use this technology to provide high quality tissue implants at a reasonable cost. The company is in the early stages of developing this technology, and must pass a series of regulatory tests before their product hits the market. Aspect is currently focusing on developing meniscus tissue, which could improve knee surgery processes and impede post-surgery development of arthritis.
 
Some biotech firms are venturing into more preventative fields. U.K. biotech firm Oxitec develops genetically modified mosquitos in hopes of controlling mosquito populations, especially populations that spread diseases like Zika. The firm modifies mosquitos by introducing a deadly gene. The engineered mosquitos are able to reproduce, but their offspring will die before adulthood. The firm conducted efficacy trials in a number of different regions, finding high reduction rates. Though it took the company over five years to gain FDA approval, Oxitec secured it in August of last year. It is now planning a test in Florida, hoping to control the spread of the Zika virus.

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