Importance of Fostering Dialouge Instead of Forcing Consensus

Almost a quarter into 2021, we can all acknowledge that this was not what we were expecting for the second decade of the 21st century. In my case at least, I used to daydream of a future characterized by accelerating scientific innovation. And in a sense, the 2020s have delivered with groundbreaking biological developments in cancer immunotherapy and gene editing to treat rare diseases — not to mention the application of mRNA technology towards vaccines for COVID-19.

Perhaps this would not be a century defined by rise of totalitarian governments and invasion of big tech into our private lives but…

Biotech “Superheros” to the Rescue!

In the ongoing battle to wrestle the COVID-19 pandemic under control, both developed and developing nations have found themselves co-dependent for cooperation. These includes pooling of information to managing aids ranging from supplies of PPE to ventilators. The unique role India played prior to the pandemic in vaccine production will be amplified as additional approved vaccines need to be manufactured and distributed on a global scale. This responsibility will fall on a group of companies who are among the “vaccine superheros” the world needs right now.

India’s pharmaceutical industry, dubbed “The World’s Pharmacy”, is known as a leading producer of…

Closing the Gap in Indian Genomic Data!

When I took the 23andMe test back in 2009, I was placed in the broad basket of “99% South Asian”. But then more and more Indians began taking genomic tests which led companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA to improve the representation of the datasets used to analyze the ancestry of participants. Now my results have been updated to show further detail including that I am 37.4% Southern Indian with at least 17.5% of my ancestry coming from the Malayali subgroup. No surprises there but the improved accuracy of these ancestry tests illustrate the importance of having the right reference data

Lessons for Consumer Genomics Companies

Source: Unsplash

While new consumer genomics companies are launched every year, it is difficult to predict which ones will be able to develop a sustainable business model or if their growth trajectories will plateau. By tracing the progression of 23andMe, a pioneering company in this space, we can see the direction for the industry as a whole. Though initially determined to provide genetics tests directly to consumers, 23andMe has evolved towards supporting drug discovery. …

Though there is plenty of coverage on the potential of microbiome research, often highlighting how the bacteria in your body outnumber the human cells, scientists do not yet fully understand the connections between the microbes in your gut and biological functions. Your microbiome could influence your ability to lose weight, immune response and even your mental state but we still require further understanding of the fundamental principles that result in an individual’s particular microbiome.

Bacteria Colonies Grown on Agar Plate

Most interestingly, the microbiome appears to be subject to the same forces that shape ecology. New niches form as populations of bacteria, archea, fungi, protozoa, and…

Genomic data is a thread that follows pharmaceutical research from the drug discovery stage through the clinical trials. But while genomics has been valuable in drug development, researchers are only just beginning to tap into the full range of data that can further inform new medical treatment. It’s first important to understand how genomic data has been useful in providing more targeted care and then see how further layers of data creates a multi-omics approach to precision medicine. This can be relevant for development of drugs to treat chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease or infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Source: Australia’s Science Channel

Applications of Genomic Data

Role of B-Cells and T-Cells in Our Body’s Defense

Photo by Mladen Borisov

As antibody testing becomes more common, new studies have been released this month including one showing that some patients from Wuhan infected by COVID-19 did not develop antibodies as well as another tracking rapid loss of antibodies in both asymptomatic and symptomatic cases. This seems counterintuitive since the ability to develop immunity to a virus forms the basis of the science behind vaccines as well. However, equating presence of antibodies with immunity ignores nuances that are vital to how our body actually protects us from viruses like COVID-19. To start, there are actually two types of immunity — innate and…

Incorporating Science into Policy Guidelines

While rates of infection are decline in cities of recent COVID-19 outbreaks such as New York and London, the socioeconomic implications of lockdowns enforced around the world are only just beginning to hit. In countries like India especially, vulnerable communities have been deprived of daily income for months. Government and non-profit organizations are working to address food shortages but the problem may soon be amplified natural disasters such as a cyclone in West Bengal and locusts are swarming in Rajasthan. …

From a tiger at a New York zoo to a dog in Hong Kong, we hear sporadic reports of COVID-19 being transmitted to animals. Preliminary research shows that the virus is less effective at replicating in dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks but that ferrets and cats especially may be more susceptible. In fact, the same study showed evidence that this coronavirus can spread among cats via air droplets. It should not be surprising to see COVID-19 making these jumps across species since the virus has already made the journey from bats and pangolins to humans.

Center for Disease Control

Zoonotic diseases, the result of…

Out of a crowded field of vaccine candidates against COVID-19, a technology from the University of Oxford has recently pulled ahead. It has been proven effective in pre-clincal tests in rhesus monkeys and could be ready for development by the end of the summer. This would be much earlier than the 18-month timeline that was expected for any vaccine to be ready for public use. The reason for the speedy deployment of this particular candidate, if approved, lies in its previous use towards another SARS-related coronavirus called MERS. …

Lakshmi Santhosh Maithel

Director of Strategy for India Biotech Leaders of Tomorrow. BizDev for products in genomics space.

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