Pharmaceutical Biotech Industry 2019 Biggest Trends
Last year, the results of biotechnology development attracted the attention of investors to the corresponding ETFs on exchanges. In 2019, the return on investment in bioengineering will largely depend on the developments described by Shelley Phan, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco..
Gene drive in the wild
The concept of gene drive is intimidating to many for obvious reasons. Gene drive is a form of genetic engineering technology that distributes a specific set of DNA throughout the population. We will not go further to alleles. The main thing is to realize that this is a serious step forward, which will cause equally serious consequences in the development of gene editing tools in human embryos..
The potential benefits of the technology are enormous – the whole family can get rid of genetically transmitted diseases (schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.) The risk is that «editing» sperm and eggs can lead to the opposite consequences – the emergence of new diseases. In this case, the development of biotechnology can cause serious problems for entire species. The possibilities of gene drive are so great that they shatter dogma. «half of the DNA comes from dad, the other − from Mom».
Mosquitoes or rodents could be a potential target for full-scale testing. By releasing just a few mutant mosquitoes with gene drives for infertility, scientists could potentially wipe out entire populations that carry infectious disasters (malaria, Dengue or Zika fever). Technology is so powerful and dangerous that the U.S. Defense Development Research Agency is committing $ 65 million to research ways to control, counteract, or even reverse potential negative advances in biotechnology..
Last year, the UN cautiously approved the use of gene drive in a restricted-use setting. The first release of the genetically modified mosquito is currently being prepared for testing in Burkina Faso, Africa. The experiment will release 10,000 Anopheles mosquitoes, which are the main culprits in the spread of malaria. The non-profit consortium Target Malaria, backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is developing a Mosq gene drive that will spread infertility among malaria-bearing insects. Target Malaria’s attempt to save millions of people slated for 2024.
Prospects for gene biotechnology and CRISPR
First, let’s define the concepts and give a brief overview of how CRISPR works. – so called «immune system» bacteria, which is made up of repeating sections of DNA. The spacer is the prototype of the virus that the cell has encountered throughout its life. Protein Cas9 compares the spacer with the DNA of the virus and cuts the harmful element. The idea of biotechnologists is that the Cas9 protein is programmed to edit unwanted amino acid sequences in DNA. Thus, Cas9 is endowed with an additional function to change the gene.
In September 2018, Richmond, California-based biotech company Sangamo Therapeutics conducted its own test. As part of it, the patient was injected with enzymes for editing genes, trying to correct a genetic defect in the breakdown of complex sugars..
Sangamo’s experience involves injecting the edited genes into the body directly through injection. The procedure now appears to be safe, although it was too early to determine effectiveness at the time of reporting. This year, the company hopes to definitively answer whether such biotechnology methods really work. Success will mean that devastating genetic disorders can potentially be treated with just a few injections. With a range of new and more accurate CRISPR and other gene editing tools, the list of treatable hereditary diseases will grow.
The high-profile CRISPR kids scandal happened at the end of last year. Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced the birth of the first children with an altered CCR5 gene. CRISPR technology was applied to girls named Nana and Lulu. Children are healthy and should now be immune to HIV. The statement caused widespread resonance and deep concern from the public.
An investigation into the genetic modification of CRISPR children was completed on January 22, after which Jiankui was fired from Shenzhen University. Also, a Chinese scientist may face charges due to falsification of the results of checks of the ethics commission..
Neuralink and other neurocomputer interfaces
Neuralink – This is a startup by Elon Musk that implants tiny particles into the brain. The function of these particles is to link human biological software with a computer and the Internet. Elon Musk estimates the prospects for the development of biotechnology very highly. Musk’s desire to achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence is not the driving force for all neurocomputer interfaces. The main incentive is the rehabilitation of patients suffering from paralysis, memory loss or other nerve damage.
In 2019, the interfaces of neurocomputers and neuromodulators will finally be able to work autonomously in a damaged brain, applying electrical stimulation only when necessary. Neurocomputers will allow scientists to control the brain without using optical fibers. Getting rid of the cable is just the first step towards fine-tuning neurological treatment..
Investments in biotechnology
After a certain stagnation, pharmaceutical companies have adjusted their approach to development, and the industry as a whole is more and more pleased with its successes. Let’s highlight some events that confirm interest in the prospects for the development of biotechnology in 2019:
- January brought SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI) a sharp jump in the rate by 20%.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb Acquires Cancer Specialist Celgene Corporation For $ 74 Billion.
- Eli Lilly spent $ 8 billion on cancer drugs linked to genetic mutations.
In addition to XBI, there are 6 more biotech ETFs that may be of interest to an investor:
- iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB).
- ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (SBIO).
- Invesco Dynamic Biotechnology & Genome ETF (PBE).
- SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI).
- First Trust NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index Fund (FBT).
- iShares Evolved U.S. Innovative Healthcare ETF (IEIH).
- ARK Genomic Revolution Multi-Sector ETF (ARKG).
The last security is interesting in that it is related to the CRISPR study..
Also recommends that you familiarize yourself with the most interesting technical innovations presented at CES 2019.