The Top 12 Biotech Stories of 2017


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FDA approves CAR T-cell therapy to treat certain children and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia 

It was a historic year for gene therapy, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the first gene therapy available in the United States, ushering in a new approach to the treatment of cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases. The FDA approved Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) for certain pediatric and young adult patients with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Read more here.. A promising gene therapy trial, took us one step closer to curing hemophilia too.

FDA Approves First Clinical Cloud-Based Deep Learning In Healthcare

It is a big stride forward for AI and machine learning in healthcare, as FDA approves a new machine learning application for medical imaging. The medical imaging platform developed by Arterys has been approved for use in aiding doctors diagnose heart problems. The platform is a cloud-based self-teaching neural network that has learned from 1000 cases thus far, and it will continue to learn and improve its knowledge as it examines more number of cases. Read more here..

Chemistry Nobel Prize awarded for developing method to shed light on the invisible world of biomolecules

The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for developing a technique to produce images of the molecules of life frozen in time. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm announced that Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson will receive equal shares of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize for “developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.” Read more here..

Singapore approves new immunotherapy regimen for advanced Melanoma

In Singapore, the Health Sciences Authority(HSA) recently approved the first combination immunotherapy for advanced melanoma, including patients for whom surgery is no longer an option or those cases where cancer has metastasized rapidly. The therapy regimen approved by the HSA combines Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo(nivolumab) and Yervoy(ipilimumab). This is the first HSA approved combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Read more here…

“REPAIR” system uses CRISPR to edit RNA, rather than DNA and has potential to treat diseases without permanently affecting the genome

In a recent article in Science, scientists at the Broad Institute and MIT describe a system that can efficiently edit single bases in RNA. The technique developed by Feng Zhang and his team and termed “RNA Editing for Programmable Adenosine (A) to Inosine (I) Replacement” or “REPAIR”, does not result in a change in the DNA sequence. Only the final products of genes, proteins, are altered as a result of RNA editing. Read more about this exciting advancement here… This was an exciting year for CRISPR. Read more about CRISPR-related news in 2017 here.

Lychee fruit is the culprit behind the mystery illness killing hundreds of children in India

For several years, a mysterious outbreak would cause hundreds of children to fall ill in the town of Muzaffarpur, a place in the state of Bihar, India. The children would experience seizures, altered mental states and went into comatose states and about 40% of them would die – and no one could explain why.  A study to identify the culprit behind the mystery disease, published on January 31st in the leading medical journal The Lancet Global Health, for the first time, comprehensively confirmed that this illness is associated with lychee fruit consumption and the effects of naturally occurring lychee toxins. Read more here..

Three American scientists win Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 2017 for their work on the biological clock

The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 2017 was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their work on unraveling the molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. The Nobel Assembly said, “Since the seminal discoveries by the three laureates, circadian biology has developed into a vast and highly dynamic research field, with implications for our health and wellbeing.” Read more here…

Battery-free implantable medical device draws energy directly from human body

Scientists from UCLA and the University of Connecticut were successful in designing a new biofriendly energy storage system called a biological supercapacitor, which operates using or ions from fluids in the human body. The device is harmless to the body’s biological systems, and it could lead to longer-lasting cardiac pacemakers and other implantable medical devices. Read more here..

Scientists grow premature lambs on external womb-like device successfully

Researchers at the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), led by study leader Alan W. Flake, MD have managed to create a unique, womb-like environment by mimicking the prenatal fluid-filled environment and creating an external womb which they call the “Biobag,” thus giving the newborns – precious weeks needed to develop their organs. Read more here…

The world’s first glow-in-the-dark frog found in Argentina