Weekly Roundup: Biotechin.Asia

March 14 – 20, 2016

Scientists use CRISPR-Cas9 to target RNA in live cells for the first time

The genetic code stored in DNA determines everything from the color of our eyes to our susceptibility to a disease. This has motivated scientists to sequence the human genome and develop ways to alter the genetic code, but many diseases are linked to a different fundamental molecule: RNA. As the intermediary genetic material that carries the genetic code from the cell’s nucleus, scientists have long sought an efficient method for targeting RNA in living cells. Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have now achieved this by applying the popular DNA-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9 to RNA. This study was published on March 17, 2016 in Cell. (Click here to read more)

Submit your idea at the 1st Bio-ideate Asia-Pacific Biohack Competition

Biotechin.Asia and Croeni Foundation has jointly launched the 1st Bio-ideate, Asia-Pacific Biohack competition, that aims to encourage everybody (no age bar!) to find novel ways to solve healthcare challenges that are unique to Asia-Pacific countries using life sciences and technologies. And yes, the competition is now extended to the Asia-Pacific region too! With prizes worth S$5000, the competition enables young scientists and hackers to create open source innovations, that will impact millions of lives! Click here to read more about “What is a Biohack?“. In the qualifier round, participants need to submit an idea or a biohack (By March 30th, 23:59 SGT – Extended Deadline), in the form of a poster or an infographic (in A4 size), which will be put up on social media for online voting (1st-12th April) and also judged by a panel of experts. (Click here to read more)

Artificial intelligence beats human champion at the game Go!

What if a task that you thought only humans could perform, like playing a complex man-made board game, could now be done better by a machine? Sounds like sci-fi, but an artificial neural network-based program called AlphaGo has done just that by beating the human world champion at the game Go, creating waves in the computer intelligence world. Not once, but thrice. No, we are not playing games with you here! Artificial neural networks (ANN) are computational models consisting of a large number of simple computational units called neurons. They are inspired by the plastic nature and structure of the human brain. ANNs are now a hot topic of research because they exhibit the potential to solve a wide variety of problems using a general approach. (Click here to read more)

Towards a better hair-growing treatment for baldness

Although hair loss is not a life-threatening condition, it can be emotionally challenging for those who have it. Current treatments can restore hair growth in mild cases, but are less successful on larger bald areas. Now, researchers report in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces that they have developed a new technique to culture hair-producing cells in the lab that someday could help hair grow back even better than before. From the earliest known times, people have grappled with hair loss. The ancient Egyptians, for example, would slather animal fats on their scalps to encourage regrowth. Current therapeutic options include either medication or autologous hair transplantation (redistribution of hair by grafting). However, both treatments are only effective for mild alopecia (hair loss) and doesn’t help in forming new hair follicles in the bald scalp. (Click here to read more)

80% of Indian Doctors Prescribed Medicines from the 344 Banned Drugs List

Soon after it was published that India bans more than 300 combination drugs that are sold illegally, eMediNexus (a healthcare startup) conducted a survey and it revealed that nearly 80% of Indian doctors prescribed drugs from the recently banned list of 344 drugs, and up to 40% of doctors disagreed with the government’s justification for the ban. This survey gauged the sentiment of 4,892 doctors on March 15-16, 2016, and further revealed that a quarter of doctors felt their reputation would be negatively impacted. Over 75% of surveyed doctors also opined that at least one of the drugs should not have been banned, and a third felt there should be exceptions to drug bans followed in developed nations like the United States. Codeine and Nimesulide combinations were the main exceptions to the ban that doctors felt should have been made, amongst a vast list of other combinations. (Click here to read more).

InvitroCue – A Singapore-based startup that is transforming Bioanalytics

InvitroCue, a Singapore-based biotech company, made its debut on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: IVQ) on Jan 27 2016, – just four years after its founding. Theis spin-off company from A*STAR, announced that it had raised an AUD 3.15 Million (SGD3.17 Million) on the ASX through a reverse takeover. On March 1st, 2016, they announced the expansion of their cell-based laboratory facility in China. In a chat with Biotechin.Asia, InvitroCue Co-founder Dr Steven Fang along with Dr. Abhishek Ananthanarayanan, one of the first pioneering members spoke about their technology, challenges faced, future prospects and insights gleaned over the course of years. (Click here to read more)

Blocking Enzymes in Hair Follicles Promotes Hair Growth

Androgenetic alopecia (AA) or ‘male pattern baldness’ is one of the most common causes of hair loss . It can occur due to 3 main factors – genetic predisposition, presence of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or the age factor. It is characterized by hair follicle miniaturization, i.e. the hair follicles produce thinner, shorter, more brittle hair with weaker shafts. The hair growth cycle normally consists of 3 phases, i.e. growth (anagen), cessation (catagen), and rest (telogen) phases. In AA, the hair follicles are unable to reenter the anagen or growth phase again and remain in a dormant state. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre have recently discovered a potential cure for AA by establishing that hair growth can be restored by an enzyme that blocks the JAK-STAT pathway in them! (Click here to read more)

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