The invisible clean-up crew: Engineering microbial cultures to destroy pollutants

February 24, 2017

These are exciting times in fundamental and applied environmental microbiology for Elizabeth Edwards. Leveraging genomics, microbiology and engineering, the University of Toronto professor has developed a highly successful biotechnology approach to inexpensively, effectively and safely clean up industrial solvents in soil and groundwater. According to Edwards, whose technique has already been used to restore more than 500 sites around the world, we’ve only just begun exploring “the enormous, untapped potential of anaerobic microbes.”

Read More

The apple that never browns: The introduction of convenience into genetically modified foods

February 24, 2017

The first genetically modified, non-browning apples will soon go on sale in the United States.
While genetic modifications in the past have been mainly defended as a way to protect crops, the Arctic Apple is one of the first GMOs marketed directly to consumers as more convenient. The controversial fruit could be a turning point in the nation’s highly polarizing debate over genetically modified organisms.

Read More

Synthetic biology startups funding surpasses $1B

February 24, 2017

The decreasing cost of DNA sequencing and synthesis and the increasing reliability of genetic editing tools such as CRISPR has led to a growth in private funding to synthetic biology startups for the fourth straight year, surpassing $1B for the first time in 2016. With funds flowing to earlier stage startups, new companies raising early rounds represented 47% of all deals to synthetic biology in 2016.

Read More

Gene therapy for Fabry disease – A world first

February 24, 2017

A Canadian team is the first in the world to use gene therapy to treat a patient with Fabry disease, a rare inherited enzyme deficiency. Using the patient’s own blood stem cells, researchers replaced the faulty gene and then transplanted the altered stem cells back into the patient.

Read More

Scientists lay ground rules for rewriting human DNA

February 24, 2017

In a report released by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, an expert committee of scientists and bioethicists from 10 countries has laid out a set of principles to inform future manipulations of the human genome. Preaching caution, not prohibition, they recommend that regulators tightly control rather than entirely ban the option of making changes to human DNA to prevent genetic disease and disability.

Read More

Artificial Intelligence app launched to digitize health care triage

February 9, 2017

Digital health firm HealthTap’s newest mobile app, Dr. A.I., digitizes the process of assessing the level of medical risk facing a patient and outlines the first step in the treatment pathway. The AI-powered “physician” software goes beyond conventional medical search engines by incorporating individual patients’ medical profiles such as age, weight and medical history, alongside expert knowledge gleaned from 105,000 triage physicians.

Read More

Fashionable synthetic biology: The North Face’s ‘Moon Parka’ spun from faux spider silk

February 9, 2017

Using genetically modified bacteria to produce synthetic silk proteins, North Face’s special edition Moon Parka is both innovative and sustainable, created by the Japanese company Spiber using an entirely biological process requiring no fossil fuels or petroleum. These synthetic polymers, with the near-magical properties of spider silk, are tougher than Kevlar by weight but more elastic and responsive than fibers like cotton–a holy grail material for wearable protection.

Read More

Ontario research facilities for genomics and advanced computing receive $116 million in funding

February 9, 2017

Canada’s Genomics Enterprise, The Centre for Phenogenomics, and Compute Canada MSI 2.0 were awarded over $116 million in funding by the Government of Canada as part of the Major Science Initiatives’ $328.5-million investment into 17 national research facilities across the country. With partnerships between SickKids, Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research, UBC, Mcgill, and University Health Network (UHN)’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, these three projects will utilize the funds to make ground-breaking discoveries at the cutting edge of genomics research and technology.

Read More

Cracking the genetic code for why inherited disease can turn lethal

February 9, 2017

CDN and AUS prostate cancer researchers have discovered a key piece in the genetic puzzle of why men born with a BRCA2 mutation may develop aggressive localized cancers that resist treatment and become lethal for up to 50% of patients within five years. The findings show that the genes normally involved in regulating cell growth and division are abnormal in the BRCA2-associated cancers and resistant to therapy from the onset.

Read More