Buzz words few spoke about 5 years ago
Below is a very personal and biased selection of hot areas of life science research. The bias comes from my own excitement about the fields described. Some of approaches have been quite established, both scientifically and from a business perspective, such as CRISPR and microbiome, others might still be under the radar for many of us such as electroceuticals and optogenetics.
Optogenetics is a biological technique which involves the use of light to control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels. It is a neuromodulation method employed in neuroscience that uses a combination of techniques from optics and genetics to control and monitor the activities of individual neurons in living tissue—even within freely-moving animals—and to precisely measure the effects of those manipulations in real-time.
Applications: today: animal research, tomorrow: neurodegeneration, psychiatrics, neurosurgery
Companies: GeneSight, RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, Second Sight Medical Products Inc., Pixium Vision
The CRISPR/Cas system, usually abbreviated as CRISPR, is used for gene editing (adding, disrupting or changing the sequence of specific genes) and gene regulation. Recently, the technique has been optimized and made cost-effective and is now accessible to most researchers throughout the world allowing them to manipulate genes in vitro and in vivo at a fraction of the cost with reduced timelines compared to previously used methodologies.
Applications: today: research tool for genome editing, tomorrow: therapeutics across different therapeutic areas
Companies: CRISPR Therapeutics, Editas Medicine, Horizon Discovery, Caribou Biosciences, Eligo Bioscience
This is a recently coined term that broadly encompasses all bioelectronics medicine that employs electrical stimulation to affect and modify functions of the body. Electroceuticals involve implanting tiny devices, typically the size of a rice grain, on nerve bundles associated with specific organ functions.
Future applications: vision and hearing restoration, neuronal and muscular stimulation
Companies: GSK, EnteroMedics, SetPoint Medical
More than 100 trillion microorganisms live in our gut, mouth, skin and other mucosal surfaces of our bodies. The human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells, and the entire microbiome accounts for about for 1-3% total body mass. The past few years has brought a scientific flurry of information about how crucial your microflora is to your genetic expression, immune system, body weight and composition, mental health, memory, and minimizing your risk for numerous diseases, from diabetes to cancer.
Future applications: human therapeutics across therapeutic areas, cosmetics
Companies: Seres Health, UBiome, Eligo Bioscience, Vedanta Biosciences, Whole Biome