The next time you stop by your local supermarket, take a long, hard look at the yellow bananas in the produce section. That’s because bananas might be extinct within just a few years, say Dutch researchers, and that could open the door for synthetic biologists to come up with a new, synthetically modified banana to replace the yellow Cavendish banana we’ve come to know and love.
This new, synthetically modified banana would look like a real banana and taste like a real banana and it would have almost exactly the same DNA as a real banana — except that it would be engineered in a bio-foundry by a team of technologists. This genetically engineered banana would have some of its genetic material designed or edited to behave differently than it does now.
More than 200 years ago, British economist Thomas Robert Malthus famously suggested that the earth would run out of food resources to feed a burgeoning global population. Now, thanks to advances in synthetic biology and genetic engineering, we could soon be talking about exponential increases in the earth’s food supply rather than the “arithmetical” increases predicted by Malthus.
Silicon Valley efforts in the biology and health domains have recently seen increased public interest because of the questions around the legitimacy of Theranos’ technology and medical claims and the recent FDA approvals for a number of 23andMe’s genetic screens.
These data points are just two of the most visible examples of a broad ecosystem of companies and startups in Silicon Valley working on biological problems. This early “biohacking” ecosystem has a number of parallels with the personal computer (PC) ecosystem in the 1970s and 1980s.
Let’s face it: If we knew precisely why stock markets surge up, down and sideways at the drop of a hat, we would all be a lot richer.
Such is the inexact science of trying to make sense of why the stock of Exact Sciences, a Madison-based cancer diagnostics company, took a nosedive Tuesday over a draft report from an independent healthcare review panel.
Stockholders and others who follow the company may want to take a deep breath before concluding the stock plunge is anything more than a speed bump in what has been an otherwise fast and smooth road for Exact Sciences.
Both public sector agencies and private sector investors are pouring new money into the synthetic biology space, and that’s leading to a situation where we can expect a burst of new innovations impacting fields as diverse as agriculture, energy and health. According to the latest “U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research Funding” report from the Wilson Center’s Synthetic Biology Project in Washington, D.C., the U.S. government funded more than $820 million in synthetic biology research programs in the period from 2008-2014.
Shares of Exact Sciences Corp. plunged Tuesday morning after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forceissued a preliminary recommendation, saying it considers the company’s non-invasive colon cancer test as an “alternative test.”
The Madison company’s stock dropped more than 40% in morning trading. The shares, which closed at $18.53 on Monday, dipped nearly as low as $10 Tuesday morning.
In April 2015, a paper by Chinese scientists about their attempts to edit the DNA of a human embryo rocked the scientific world and set off a furious debate. Leading scientists warned that altering the human germ line without studying the consequences could have horrific consequences. Geneticists with good intentions could mistakenly engineer changes in DNA that generate dangerous mutations and cause painful deaths. Scientists — and countries — with less noble intentions could again try to build a race of superhumans.
From the “be careful what you wish for” file …
Madison is nowhere to be found on a list of the top life sciences clusters in the U.S., and that could be disappointing to some.
But the ranking also lists rental prices for biotech space, and locals can breathe a sigh of relief they don’t have to pay some of those hefty prices.
Jones Lang LaSalle, a Chicago real estate and investment management firm, is out with its 2015 Life Sciences Outlook, pegging the top 17 cities.
Promega Corp., one of the Madison area’s most successful, homegrown and fiercely independent biotechnology companies, is in the midst of a hostile takeover attempt by two shareholders who want to buy a majority of shares and boot Promega’s founder and CEO Bill Linton.
‘Patients can actually begin to care for themselves – relieve the burden of the delivery system and get a better result’
For those healthcare providers still resistant to technology, you’ve got a problem on your hands: You’re going to be left behind. This is where healthcare it going – with or without you.