The world of biotechnology is in a state of constant evolution. It is fast, exciting, and volatile with new discoveries and advancements occurring every day. It is a field of seemingly unlimited potential and the scientists spearheading life-altering studies are often woefully under-appreciated. As the advisor of a leading disruptive healthcare solutions company, I am always on the lookout for new trends in the biotech sphere. Based on some of the studies going on right now, 2017 is shaping up to be a promising year for biotechnology.
- Advances in immuno-oncology
One of the most exciting and promising areas of biotechnology today is immunotherapy as a potential cancer treatment with the power to target and destroy cancer cells. According to John Bonfiglio of TapImmune Inc., “Immuno-oncology has exploded because there’s been some success.” PD-1 inhibitors are already being used to treat late stage melanoma and are starting to be approved for lung cancer as well. The key to immunotherapy success will be combination therapies where a combination of drugs work together to fight cancer.
- Improved understanding of the brain
Scientists are channeling a lot of focus into gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms of the brain and how to treat its conditions. One major area of advancement will be treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. As billions of dollars are poured into antibody drugs, scientists are researching alternative forms of treatment as well. For example, Yumanity Therapeutics raised $45 million to design a drug discovery machine for neurodegenerative diseases and Annexon Biosciences is researching the idea of stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s by preventing the immune system from removing the synapses in charge of neuronal functioning. Additionally, while scientists are an estimated 17 million years away from achieving total imaging of the human brain, they are at least approaching a better understanding of the functioning of the human brain through technologies like machine learning and more advanced resolution methods. Alternative, previously banned psychoactive drugs like LSD are also being explored for their effectiveness in the treatment of depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders.
- Legalization of medical marijuana
The benefits of medical marijuana are immense and, when taken in the proper dosage, far outweigh any risks. Many states are starting to catch onto marijuana’s healing properties, with four states legalizing the drug for medical purposes in 2016. It is anticipated that the legalization of marijuana will lead to the formation and development of more cannabis companies and encourage further research.
- Gene editing
Some exciting advancements are underway in the biotechnology world with regards to the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9. This advanced technology, previously only tested on lab animals, is now being studied in human clinical trials. CRISPR has the potential to eliminate diseases like cancer by extracting cancer cells from patients, genetically modifying them outside the body, and then reinserting them.
- Stem Cell and regenerative therapies
Scientists are making the previously impossible, possible, with groundbreaking stem cell therapies that allow them to craft organoids and re-grow organs, and use stem cells to replicate other cells in the body. A growing number of biotech companies are dedicated to growing and regenerating vital human organs, such as skin and fully-functioning kidney organs crafted in the lab. These are just a few of the exciting advancements underway.