It’s hard to imagine how things could possibly get better for life sciences cluster, save for an extended spell of money falling from the sky. Things are clicking for the people who take academic research, raise millions in venture capital, forge partnerships with big pharma companies, and one day, they hope land new products on the market that can improve and extend lives.
So what are the scientific areas and tech advances that people in the local life sciences scene think will bear fruit in the years and decades ahead? These past 20 years have seen biotech innovations are trying to make the world a better place. Here is the list of 8 key biotech breakthroughs of the year 2017 that you must see:
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1. Human Cell Atlas
A community of world-leading scientists discussed the concept of building a human cell atlas. It is a collection of maps which will describe and define the cellular basis of health and disease. Cells are the most fundamental unit of life, but surprisingly we know very little about them. Without maps of different cell types and where they are located in the body, we cannot describe all their functions and understand the biological networks that direct their activities.
A complete Human Cell Atlas will give us a unique ID card for each cell type, a 3D type that works together to form tissues, knowledge of how all body systems are connected, and insights into how changes in the map underlie health and disease. It would allow us to identify which genes associated with the disease are active in our bodies and where, and analyze the regulatory mechanisms that govern the production of different cell types.
This was a key challenge in biology for more than 150 years. New tools like single-cell genomics have put it within reach.
Gene therapy is used for the introduction of genetic material into cells to compensate for abnormal genes or to make a beneficial protein. If a mutated gene causes a necessary protein to be faulty or missing, gene therapy may be able to introduce a normal copy of the gene to restore the function of the protein.
Scientists have been chasing the dream of gene therapy for decades. For gene therapy, they engineer the virus to deliver healthy copies of a gene into patients with defective versions. But until recently, it had produced more disappointments than successes. But recently, gene therapy has made a lot of progressions and is said to be one of the emerging technology.
Microbes in our body emit the chemical, which interferes with the way food is digested. Biotech companies this year are focusing on the microbiome for developing new diagnostics, new therapies, and “probiotic” products to prevent dangerous microbe imbalances.
With the National Microbiome Initiative’s accelerating research and development, experts believe 2017 is the year the microbiome becomes the biotech industry’s most promising and lucrative frontier.
4. Liquid biopsies
Liquid biopsies uncover signs of actual DNA, or cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), that is shed from a tumor into the bloodstream. This ctDNA is more than 100 times more abundant in the blood than tumor cells.
While studies are still underway, annual sales of this revolutionary cancer test are forecast to be $10 billion. Several companies are developing testing kits to hit the market this year. Experts believe that it is only a matter of time before catching and treating cancer is as a routine like the annual checkup.
Researchers are making progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away. For example: Try sitting on your hands for a day. It will give you an idea of the shattering consequences of spinal cord injury. But if you have this, it will change your life. This is said to be
6. 3-D visualization and augmented reality for surgery
Doctors rely on microscope oculars or other camera systems to operate these days. It helps to execute the most precise tasks. The augmented reality is a turning point for doctors. Those who have piloted the technology say the added comfort and visual information will allow surgeons to operate more efficiently and effectively. There are several hospitals that will be adopting these virtual reality tools in 2017.
7. Self-administered HPV test
Most sexually active women contract human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain strains of HPV are responsible for 99 percent of cases of cervical cancer. Despite having HPV prevention and treatment, the benefits are restricted to a small population, women with access to HPV tests and vaccines.
Researchers have developed self-administered HPV test kits that include a test tube, a swab, and a mail-in box. Women can administer their own tests, mail a sample back to a lab, and be alerted to dangerous strains of HPV.
Scientists believe 2017 will be the year these tests are deployed on a large scale, representing the biggest prevention effort for cervical cancer to date
8. Depression Treatment
In 2013, ketamine, a drug that is commonly used for anesthesia, was studied for its ability for target and inhibition of the action of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors of nerve cells. The results were overwhelmingly favorable. Studies have shown indicated that 70 percent of patients with treatment-resistant depression saw an improvement in symptoms within 24 hours of receiving ketamine. For the first time, there was a fast treatment for the severely depressed.
The studies prompted the FDA to grant fast-track status for the development of new NMDA-receptor-targeting medications. Some, like Esketamine, have received breakthrough designation from the FDA, making it more likely that they will become available to patients in 2017.