Roundup: Monthly Biotech Updates, February 2019

The article highlights the important news and updates related to the field of biotechnology. Containing all the big news, deals, discoveries, and announcements made by biotech researchers, companies and related personnel, this is an overall roundup for the month of February – 2019.

Big News


Solar Panels For Yeast Cell Biofactories

Genetically engineered microbes have long been used as living factories in order to produce drugs and fine chemicals. Recently, researchers have started combining bacteria with semiconductor technology. The technology similar to solar panels harvests energy from light and boost biosynthetic potential when coupled to the microbes’ surface.

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard have stated about Solar panels for yeast cell biofactories. The team led by Core Faculty member Postdoctoral Fellows Junling Guo, Neel Joshi, and Miguel Suástegui have presented a highly adaptable solution for creating yeast bio-hybrids with enhanced metabolism that is driven by light energy.  They increased the “carbon flux’ towards shikimic acid for higher production levels. The pathway that has been disrupted to increase yields also provides the energy which needed to fuel shikimic acid production. This allowed creating yeast bio-hybrids.

BACE1 Might Treat Alzheimer’s Disease In Human

Alzheimer’s disease in human results to an abnormal buildup of beta-amyloid peptide which forms large, amyloid plaques in the brain. Such plaques disrupt the function of neuronal synapses. A researchers team from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute did a study to find that gradually depleting an enzyme named BACE1 reverses the formation of amyloid plaques in the Alzheimer infected mice’s brain, thereby improving its cognitive function.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, gave a hope that drugs targeting BACE1 enzyme can successfully treat Alzheimer’s disease in humans. BACE1 produces beta-amyloid peptide by cleaving the amyloid precursor protein (APP).

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Gut Bacteria Is Connected To Obesity:

Recent studies have been indicating that our gut microbiota plays an important role in our health. It is said to affect our metabolism and can also be linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden recently discovered a relation between gut bacteria and obesity. They discovered a certain amino acid in our blood that can be linked to both obesity and composition of the gut microbiome. The research suggested that the obesity-related metabolites are linked to four intestinal bacteria (Blautia, Dorea and Ruminococcus and SHA98).

This research thereby opens a gate for future study that should focus on “how to modify the composition of gut bacteria to reduce the risk of obesity?”

New Houseplant Can Clean Your Home’s Air

Some molecules like chloroform which is present in chlorinated water, or benzene- a component of gasoline harms our health. These substances which builds up in our homes while boiling water or storing cars have been linked to cancer.

Researchers at the University of Washington have succeeded to genetically modify a common houseplant named pothos ivy to remove benzene and chloroform from the air around it. These modified plants express a protein- 2E1.  2E1 transforms these compounds into the molecules that the pothos ivy can then use to support their own growth.

The Mechanism Behind DNA Damage Control Uncovered

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have identified a mechanism which is important for the survival of cells under genotoxic stress. As per previous works, cells need to shut down the gene transcription by using RNA polymerase II to allow DNA repair and then limit the production of abnormal transcripts. In the journal Molecular Cell published in February 26, it is said that the initial finding can help to develop cancer cell killing effects of chemotherapy.


Big Deals

Roche, the Swiss drugs group, has acquired Spark Therapeutics for $4.8bn. Roche has offered $114.50 for each share, a premium of more than 122% to Spark’s closing price last week. The offer values Spark Therapeutics’s equity at $4.8bn, inclusive of $500m of net cash. Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will commence a tender offer to acquire all shares of Spark’s common stock.

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Ipsen – a French healthcare company agreed to buy U.S. peer Clementia Pharmaceuticals. The deal worth $1.31 billion was made on 25th of February, 2019. The deal will help to boost Ipsen’s portfolio of products treating rare diseases. Ipsen would buy all of Clementia’s shares for $25 each (in cash upfront) and offered a contingent value right purchase of $6.00 per share, making a total transaction value of up to $1.31 billion.