mRNA and the Future of Vaccines - 2021.02.12
Plus: Company updates in synthetic biology.
☀️ Good morning.
The light microscope opened the first gate to microcosm. The electron microscope opened the second gate to microcosm. What will we find opening the third gate? - Ernst Ruska
📰 Bioengineering in the News
DNA is my love language.
THE mRNA POTENTIAL: mRNA vaccines can protect people from the novel coronavirus. In the future, they could protect people from much more. MIT Technology Review. Link
RIBOSOME REVIVAL: Ribosomes are exquisitely chaotic; pistons pumping, gears thrumming, they read through mRNA and spit out proteins with blistering pace. Now, scientists are modifying these machines to create new types of polymers. Chemical & Engineering News. Link (See my technical proposal to engineer ribosomes to create a ‘mirrored’ organism.)
NEANDERTHAL BRAINS: For a recent study, researchers expressed a Neanderthal gene in brain organoids—hundreds of thousands of human cells, grown in the lab, that ‘mimic’ normal brains—to understand its ancient function. That single gene “triggered striking changes in the anatomy and function of brain organoids,” writes Carl Zimmer in The New York Times. Link (Also reported in Scientific American and Science).
NEANDERTHAL MICROBIOMES: Aaaand….it turns out that neanderthal microbiomes were pretty similar to our own. That’s according to a DNA analysis of 50,000 year old poop. Fun. Ars Technica. Link
AMERICAN DEFENSE: America is not prepared for biological threats. Now, the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense is calling for an ‘Apollo program’ to tackle the issue. Future Human. Link
SEQUENCE THE BEND: A new technique, called Loop-seq, can measure the ‘bendability’ of DNA. Nature Methods. Link
HUMAN GENOME HISTORY: Twenty years after publishing the human genome sequence, Nature’s editor-in-chief reflects on the achievement. Audio. Nature. Link
DNA DATA IN DISARRAY: DNA sequences, stored in digital databases, are spread out across websites and repositories like a patchwork quilt. Scientists and government agencies can do better. Nature. Link
VIRUS VARIANTS: New coronavirus variants are spreading across the U.S. The threat will demand a surge in viral testing; some existing facilities are barely being used. Science. Link
CRISPRi STOPS FAECALIS: Researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology used CRISPRi to shut down biofilm formation in Enterococcus faecalis, a common cause of hospital-acquired infections. MIT News. Link
COMPLEX THERAPIES: Gene therapy is pretty good at tackling diseases caused by one defective gene. But how does it fare at tackling complex diseases, caused by myriad genetic interactions? This article takes a ‘deep dive’ on that topic. Labiotech.eu. Link
If you’re into press releases…
Caribou Biosciences, the Berkeley, Ca. based CRISPR company, signed a deal with AbbVie to develop an “off-the-shelf cancer cell therapy.” The deal could be worth up to $340 million. San Francisco Business Times. Link
Drug Farm, based in both China and the U.S., has raised $56 million to develop and test immune-modulating therapeutics. The company plans to conduct human clinical trials for its hepatitis B drug. Business Wire. Link
Ensoma, a new spinout from researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine, raised $70 million in venture funding to develop new vectors for delivering genomic medicines. Fierce Biotech. Link
Nanome, a San Diego, Ca. based developer of virtual reality platforms to help scientists explore biological molecules, has raised $3 million in a funding round led by Bullpen Capital. Tech Crunch. Link
Until next time,
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