Driven by remarkable data and advances in AI, 2023 is a promising year set to expand frontiers of what is known about biotechnology.
To pick up on which sector of the biotech industry think tanks are eying this year, Kiera Peikoff, Deputy Director of Communications at Leaps by Bayer and an MS holder in bioethics from Columbia University, surveyed a group of field experts. Notably, among the top five biotech trends that will continue to grow are Cell and Gene Therapies, Synthetic Biology, Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture, Xenotransplantation, and AI-Enhanced Precision Medicine.
For cell and gene therapy, its main goal is to tackle current gene therapy limitations - primarily, the delivery system that only affects cells in the liver. In the US, most of the approved cell therapies are only on blood cancers. The ability to precisely deliver genetic medicine beyond the liver and improving the efficiency in reprogramming patients’ cells in vivo are at the forefront of this effort.
Another realm that’s taking center stage is synthetic biology and its massive application in carrying out covetable biotechnological processes in almost everything - from medicine, to farming, to manufacturing. Beating unsustainable farm practices through regenerative agriculture and developing therapeutic modalities are among the heaps of breakthroughs to be expected.
Considering ongoing crises with food insecurity and climate change, resilient and sustainable agriculture will be an excellent way in adapting and intercepting these global threats. The introduction of new traits and utilization of epigenetics in producing more nutrient dense, high-yielding crops that are less dependent on chemically based fertilizers - it could just be the two-pronged approach that can mitigate the world’s biggest challenges.
In the US, hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of transplants. Fortunately for the last year, xenotransplantation has allowed a man with an end-stage heart failure to live for another two months. This spurred hope and ongoing massive research investments in making pig hearts, lungs, and kidneys more likely to be accepted by human immune systems.
And lastly, with quantum leaps in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), finding novel biological targets and designing better drugs has never been easier, unlocking the possibilities of more personalized treatments for patients.
As Ahat Binur and Yanay Ofran of Ukko - a company with computational engineering platform that re-designs food allergens by turning them into safe and efficacious therapeutics - have mentioned, the last decade was the decade of data in biotech. From high-througput technologies, much have already been done to gain better understanding of biology. So, 2023 is poised to be a year when the era of design and new technology enters.