For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days. The prohibition was aimed at avoiding a thicket of ethical issues that would be raised by doing experiments on living human embryos as they continue to develop. But on Wednesday, an influential scientific society recommended scrapping that blanket taboo, known as the “14-day rule.”
The global coronavirus pandemic is spurring a boom in health care investments, as companies large and small try to combat the infectious disease. Biotechs, in particular, have seen a boom in interest, as investors look to bet on what could be the next Moderna (MRNA).
Kedar Karkare, a health-care analyst at CB Insights, said 2020 was a record year for the sector.
“We had almost $42 billion invested into biopharmaceutical companies … across 1,851 deals,” Karkare said. That’s a 46% increase over 2019, but the number of deals was only 4% more than in 2019, indicating that more capital was spent making these deals, Karkare said.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said that Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, may provide immunity against the disease for nine to 12 months, as per the mathematical calculations.
Covaxin’s approval in India faced criticism, especially when used for inoculating healthcare workers during Phase I of the vaccination drive, IANS reported.
The vaccine approval came even before the release of Phase III trial data.
IANS quoted AIIMS Bhopal and Jammu president YK Gupta as saying: “Covaxin was approved for emergency use and the data from Phase I and Phase II trials, and the ongoing Phase III trials, suggest that it is safe and effective, and by March-end tentatively, the data from Phase III trials will be available to establish its efficacy.”
“The vaccine is being given to lakhs of people, and there are hardly any serious side-effects. No death has been caused by Covaxin so far.”
A drug regulator gives approval if the efficacy of the drug is more than 50%, which was the case for Covaxin.
Many groups, including the Consumer Choice Center, have endorsed genetic technologies, and there is good reason to expect the UK government to finally choose science over unjustified cautiousness inherent to EU regulations.
“Boris Johnson has repeatedly mentioned his willingness to liberate the UK’s “extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules.” Such a policy would be a huge win for consumers and farmers, and at the same time it would also signal a momentous drift away from the European Union’s unjustified cautiousness towards these new technologies,” said Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.
What does it mean to be part of the “quaranteam?”
If you got hired last year at Constellation Pharmaceuticals, but no one has yet met you face-to-face, you’re on it.
The Cambridge company is developing an array of drugs to treat cancer, and it hired about 75 people over the course of 2020. Brenda Sousa, chief human resources officer, says she expects this year’s hiring to run at about the same rate. But as the quaranteam has grown, the company has been increasingly open to hiring people outside of Massachusetts, Sousa says; some will be expected to relocate as the pandemic wanes, but others will stay where they are “due to the nature of their roles.”
The year is starting off with a number of biopharma and life sciences initial public offerings (IPOs). Last year was a record number of IPOs in the biotech industry, with 81 raising $13.5 billion. With this kind of a start, 2021 may be scorching.
TCR2 Therapeutics – The Cambridge, Mass. company announced pricing for its underwritten offering of 4,590,164 shares on January 20 of $30.50 per share. The company hopes to raise $140 million of common stock, which will be used to advance its clinical and earlier stage programs and for R&D, working capital and general corporate purposes. TCR2 is developing novel T-cell therapies for solid tumors and hematological cancers. Its T-cell receptor (TCR) Fusion Construct T cells (TRuC-T cells) recognize and kill cancer cells by leveraging signaling from the entire TCR.
TC-210 is currently in a Phase I/II trial for mesothelin-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), ovarian cancer, malignant pleural/peritoneal mesothelioma, and cholangiocarcinoma. TC-110 is in a Phase I/II trial for CD19-positive adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (aALL) and with aggressive or indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
The Nobel Prize got Wall Street’s attention. On Oct. 7, the Swedish Academy awarded 2020’s Nobel in chemistry to two scientists for the development of Crispr-Cas9—a molecular scissors that can find and edit almost any sequence in a cell’s DNA. The 2012 discovery by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna had been commercialized with rare speed, and the Nobel was a boost for three companies founded to develop Crispr gene-editing therapies: Crispr Therapeutics,Intellia Therapeutics,and Editas Medicine.The three gene-editing stocks have more than doubled in the past few months, reaching a total market value above $23 billion.
LOS ANGELES – A group of bio technology companies are currently developing a COVID-19 vaccine for cats.
The Italian startup Takis Biothech is partnering with Applied DNA Sciences, a company based in New York, to create a two-dose vaccine that will hopefully be administered to cats by the end of the year.
It is fair to say that the human body contains a lot of data. Not only is our DNA made up of about three billion genome bases, if you laid out all the DNA in the human body, it would stretch to twice the diameter of the Solar System and each cell’s DNA would be three-metre long — now amounting to a lot of data.
Biotechnology, the use of living organisms or biological systems and their derivatives to make products, is propelled forward by data, information, and statistics. In 2014, according to Science magazine, bioinformatics became a discipline in its own right rather than a tool in a biologist or biotechnologist’s armoury. Business intelligence, data analytics, and technological advances are crucial to the development of new technologies and treatments, and to overcome current challenges. By making sense of big data, from genomics or from sensors, we can identify potential drug targets, improve processes, bring new drugs to market, and reduce errors in clinical trials.
For all of the darkness of this past year — from a deadly plague to the delusional and autocratic ambitions of a disgraced president — 2020 also will be remembered as the global coming-out event for the biotechnology sector.
The previous record for vaccine development speed was four years. Because of the cutting-edge biotech platforms made possible by the mapping of the human genome, two U.S. companies delivered safe and stunningly effective Covid vaccines to the market in just 10 months this year, a harbinger of medical cures to come.
The challenge before us for 2021 will be to restore trust in our public institutions and peer-reviewed science so we can vaccinate enough Americans to achieve herd immunity and end this pandemic once and for all.
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