GMOs are ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional foods. Should they face reduced regulations?

MARC BRAZEAU | November 22, 2019 | 5 views

If there is a single concept that drives much of the divide in the GMO debate, it’s substantial equivalence. Having different understandings or misunderstandings of the concept leads to rancor, distrust and talking past each other. Proponents see it as a common sense way of determining if heightened regulatory scrutiny for a new product is warranted or unnecessary. Critics of genetic engineering often see it as some sort of trick — a sleight of hand or legalistic loophole. They ask how something can be so novel that on one hand, it merits the legal protection of a patent monopoly, and then on the other hand, the FDA can declare it to be substantially equivalent to its parent variety or breed. That suspicious and often paranoid take is nearly always based on misunderstandings of the concept of substantial equivalence and how patents work.

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Advancement in Genomics Accelerating its Penetration into Precision Health

Article | April 19, 2020

Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of biology emphasizing the structure, editing, evolution, function, and mapping of genomes. It is creating deeper inroads across the precision health domain with the increasing introduction of advanced technologies such as quantum simulation, next-generation sequencing (NGS), and precise genome manipulation. As precision health focuses on providing the proper intervention to the right patient at the right time, genomics increasingly finds applications in human and pathogen genome sequencing in clinical and research spaces. Rising Hereditary Diseases Burden Paving the Way for Genomics in Precision Health In the last few years, a significant surge in the prevalence of diseases and ailments such as diabetes, obesity, baldness, and others has been witnessed across the globe. A history of family members with chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, hearing issues, and heart disease, can sometimes continue into the next generation. Hence, the study of genes is extensively being conducted for predicting health risks and early treatment of these diseases. It also finds use in CRISPR-based diagnostics and the preparation of precision medication for the individual. In addition, ongoing advancements in genomics are making it possible to identify different genetic traits that persuade people to more widespread diseases and health problems. The Emergence of Genomics Improves Disease Understanding Genomics refers to the study of the complete genetic makeup of a cell or organism. Increasing scientific research in the area substantially contributes to increasing knowledge about the human genome and assists in improving the ability to understand disease etiology, risk, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. On account of these improvements, innovative genomic technologies and tools are being developed to enable better precision health not only for the individual but for various regional populations as well. The Way Forward With growing preference for personalized medicine and an increasing need for more accurate pathogen detection and diagnostics, genomics is gaining huge popularity across the precision health domain. Also, increasing research activities for developing novel high-precision therapeutics and rising importance of gene study in the prevention, diagnosis, and management of infectious and genetic diseases will further pave the way for genomics in the forthcoming years.

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Top 10 biotech IPOs in 2019

Article | April 13, 2020

The big question at the start of 2019 was whether the IPO window would stay open for biotech companies, particularly those seeking to pull off ever-larger IPOs at increasingly earlier stages of development. The short answer is yes—kind of. Here’s the long answer: In the words of Renaissance Capital, the IPO market had “a mostly good year.” The total number of deals fell to 159 from 192 the year before, but technology and healthcare companies were standout performers. The latter—which include biotech, medtech and diagnostics companies—led the pack, making up 43% of all IPOs in 2019. By Renaissance’s count, seven companies went public at valuations exceeding $1 billion, up from five the year before

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Cell Out? Lysate-Based Expression an Option for Personalized Meds

Article | April 9, 2020

Cell-free expression (CFE) is the practice of making a protein without using a living cell. In contrast with cell line-based methods, production is achieved using a fluid containing biological components extracted from a cell, i.e., a lysate. CFE offers potential advantages for biopharma according to Philip Probert, PhD, a senior scientist at the Centre for Process Innovation in the U.K.

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Closing bacterial genomes from the human gut microbiome using long-read sequencing

Article | February 12, 2020

In our lab, we focus on the impact of the gut microbiome on human health and disease. To evaluate this relationship, it’s important to understand the particular functions that different bacteria have. As bacteria are able to exchange, duplicate, and rearrange their genes in ways that directly affect their phenotypes, complete bacterial genomes assembled directly from human samples are essential to understand the strain variation and potential functions of the bacteria we host. Advances in the microbiome space have allowed for the de novo assembly of microbial genomes directly from metagenomes via short-read sequencing, assembly of reads into contigs, and binning of contigs into putative genome drafts. This is advantageous because it allows us to discover microbes without culturing them, directly from human samples and without reference databases. In the past year, there have been a number of tour de force efforts to broadly characterize the human gut microbiota through the creation of such metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs)[1–4]. These works have produced hundreds of thousands of microbial genomes that vastly increase our understanding of the human gut. However, challenges in the assembly of short reads has limited our ability to correctly assemble repeated genomic elements and place them into genomic context. Thus, existing MAGs are often fragmented and do not include mobile genetic elements, 16S rRNA sequences, and other elements that are repeated or have high identity within and across bacterial genomes.

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Spotlight

VeritasGenetics

Veritas Genetics is the leader in consumer genetics. We are an energetic start-up, recently named as one of MIT’s 50 Smartest Companies in 2016, with a strong pulse and mission as well as a passion for empowering people to live longer and healthier lives.

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Dow AgroSciences | June 29, 2013

GMO Answers is a new website launched by The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta. The new initiative is aimed at answering questions from the public about GMOs and how food is produced.

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Dow AgroSciences | June 29, 2013

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