This year’s most creative biotech businesses are increasing researchers’ R&D capabilities in the lab and online, enabling more precise and inclusive diagnostic testing, and offering new paradigms for everything from drug development to agricultural soil health.
For minding the eggs
Millions of frozen human fertility cells, also known as eggs and embryos, are managed and stored by IVF centers worldwide. In the next years, that number is expected to rise into the tens of millions. However, many clinics still use paper logs to manage patient data and handle specimens by hand. TMRW Life Sciences has developed the world’s first automated platform for storing, managing, and caring for frozen eggs and embryos used in IVF. Its integrated software and hardware ensure that eggs and embryos are traceable and preserved at cryogenic temperatures safely utilizing RFID(Radio Frequency Identification) technology. Clinicians can retrieve eggs and embryos using robotics and automation while maintaining the ideal temperature for all specimens during the retrieval process. TMRW began operations in 2021 with leading IVF facilities in Boston, Denver, Chicago, and San Diego, securely transferring over 30,500 eggs and embryos to their platform.
For bringing DNA printing to the benchtop
DNA Script, established in Paris, is among the first firms to create Enzymatic DNA Synthesis, or EDS, a faster, more precise, and efficient alternative to traditional chemical DNA synthesis. EDS allows for the synthesis of longer DNA strands than other methods, which is essential for the study. Scientists may now print their DNA on-demand in their labs using the Syntax System benchtop printer, which was commercially released in June 2021. DNA Script is a group of firms chosen by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to build a DNA-based data storage system, and it’s also collaborating with Moderna and GE Research to provide on-demand biothreat vaccines.
For bringing the brain to organs-on-a-chip
Emulate announced their Colon Intestine-Chip for researchers investigating inflammatory bowel disease in March 2021. It released the Emulate Brain-Chip in June 2021, a realistic model of brain cell types that may be utilized to explore neuroinflammatory processes and assess the efficacy of medication candidates in penetrating the blood-brain barrier. Like other so-called organ chips, it combines several types of living cells in a microfluidics chip that mimics the normal physiology and mechanical stresses that cells encounter inside the human body. In many cases, such chips could replace animal testing. Emulate has been an animal rights advocate, advocating for legislation to reduce the use of primates in drug testing and supporting the FDA Modernization Act and the Humane Research Act, which call for alternatives to animal testing.
To make sure the air is safe to breathe
This Bay Area startup, launched in 2013, shifted its focus from “DNA barcoding” food and pharmaceutical products to marketing a DNA-based diagnostic for airborne infections. The technology detects, measures, and visualizes irregularities in airflow, ventilation, and filtration in real-world indoor settings using patented “DNA-tagged aerosol tracers,” safely simulating respiratory emission and occupational exposure to infectious aerosols like COVID-19. Recent clients are the California Department of Corrections, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, schools, long-term care facilities, and commercial landlord Brookfield Properties. In 2021, SafeTraces had a 200 percent increase in revenue from quarter to quarter.
Making a more inclusive breast cancer risk test
In 2021, Myriad, which developed the first test for the BRCA gene mutations that can increase breast cancer risk, launched the first polygenic breast cancer risk assessment score validated for women of diverse populations and all ancestries, addressing long-standing disparities in detection and outcomes for non-white patients. To help assure broad access, Myriad claims that nine out of ten women who qualify for the test will pay nothing, thanks to insurance coverage and Myriad’s financial aid program.
All of these revolutionary biotech companies have demonstrated that we can achieve any goal with knowledge and determination. We’re quite interested in seeing how their research progresses, as well as keeping a watch on any fresh breakthroughs that may occur. Hopefully, these firms will stimulate additional biotech sector innovation and push the science’s boundaries.