This new experimental robot gripping arm can ‘taste’ what it touches


This post is by Darrell Etherington from TechCrunch


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Okay do you know how we can taste things and that was pretty special? It’s not special anymore, because researchers at UC Davis working with colleagues Carnegie Mellon have developed a way for an experimental soft robotic gripper to ‘taste’ things as well, using bacteria engineered to allow it to detect a specific chemical.

The robot employs a ‘biosensing module’ that’s built using an engineered strain of E. coli bacteria to indicate the presence of a chemical called IPTG by producing a protein, which in turn triggers a circuit built into the robot that’s designed to detect light. That signal is used to let the robot know whether the chemical is present in the water bath in the clip below, and so you can see that once the chemical is totally dissipated and no longer present, the robot can detect that and then it knows it’s safe to put the

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Where are all the biotech startups raising?


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from TechCrunch


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Where are all the biotechnology companies raising these days? We crunched some numbers to arrive at an answer.

Using funding rounds data from Crunchbase, we plotted the count of venture capital funding rounds raised by companies in the fairly expansive biotechnology category in Crunchbase. Click the chart below and you can hover over individual data points to see the number of venture rounds raised in a given metro area between the start of 2018 and late May 2019 (as of publication). Although there are biotechnology companies located throughout the world, we focused here on just the U.S.

USA_Biotech_2018-May2019

Unlike in the software-funding business, where New York City (and

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DNA Script picks up $38.5 million to make DNA production faster and simpler


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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DNA Script has raised $38.5 million in new financing to commercialize a process that it claims is the first big leap forward in manufacturing genetic material.

The revolution in synthetic biology that’s reshaping industries from medicine to agriculture rests on three, equally important pillars.

They include: analytics — the ability to map the genome and understand the function of different genes; synthesis — the ability to manufacture DNA to achieve certain functions; and gene editing — the CRISPR-based technologies that allow for the addition or subtraction of genetic code.

New technologies have already been introduced to transform the analytics and editing of genomes, but little progress has been made over the past 50 years in the ways in which genetic material is manufactured. That’s exactly the problem that DNA Script is trying to solve.

Traditionally, making DNA involved the use of chemical compounds to synthesize (or write) DNA in

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The World Health Organization is setting up rules and oversight for human gene editing


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Yesterday, the World Health Organization wrapped up its first meeting of a new advisory committee set up to create global governance and oversight standards for human gene editing.

The committee was hastily pulled together in December after the revelation last year that a Chinese scientist had genetically modified two embryos using CRISPR technology to remove the CCR5 gene, which plays a critical role in enabling many forms of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) to infect cells.

As soon as the Shenzhen-based geneticist He Jiankui made his results public, his work was met with universal condemnation — both inside and outside of China,

He was last seen under house arrest in a compound on the university grounds where he conducted his research as China moved retroactively to declare his work illegal.

Now the World Health Organization is taking its

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XGenomes is bringing DNA sequencing to the masses


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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As healthcare moves toward genetically tailored treatments, one of the biggest hurdles to truly personalized medicine is the lack of fast, low-cost genetic testing.

And few people are more familiar with the problems of today’s genetic diagnostics tools than Kalim Mir, the 52-year-old founder of XGenomes, who has spent his entire professional career studying the human genome.

Ultimately genomics is going to be the foundation for healthcare,” says Mir. “For that we need to move toward a sequencing of populations.” And population-scale gene sequencing is something that current techniques are unable to achieve. 

“If we’re talking about population scale sequencing with millions of people we just don’t have the throughput,” Mir says.

That’s why he started XGenomes, which is presenting as part of the latest batch of Y Combinator companies next week.

A visiting scientist in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Genetics, Mir worked with the

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J&J spends $3.4 billion in cash for Auris Health’s lung cancer diagnostics and surgical robots


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Johnson & Johnson’s robotic surgery and medical device division, Ethicon, is dropping $3.4 billion in cash to pick up Auris Health, a developer of robotic diagnostics and surgical devices initially focused on detecting and treating lung cancer.

The healthcare giant said an additional $2.35 billion in payouts may be possible if Auris hits certain milestones.

Auris’ acquisition is likely a windfall for investors including Lux Capital and Coatue Management, which both invested as part of a whopping $280 million round the company closed two years ago.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Fred Moll, whose previous companies included the 22-year-old, publicly traded Intuitive Surgical, a robotic surgical systems manufacturer now worth around $61.4 billion, and Hansen Medical, a company that developed tools to manipulate catheters; Auris recently received approval from the

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Two former members of Google’s skunkworks division have launched a biomanufacturing company


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Biomanufacturing technologies — taking modified versions of existing organisms and bending them to the will of humans — has moved from the world of science fiction to becoming a new reality.

Across the startup landscape companies are launching to make synthetic spider silk, or make leather substitutes, or meat substitutes, or novel chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

What all of these companies have in common is that they need to be able to rapidly experiment with different organisms and processes for cultivating them to make their visions work at a commercial scale — and that’s where Culture Biosciences comes in.

The company was founded by two Chapel Hill, N.C. natives and Duke alums Matthew Ball and Will Patrick. The two met in college at Duke and worked together in Google’s famous skunkworks division (then known as Google X).

Will Patrick, co-founder, Culture Biosciences

After leaving Google, Patrick, the company’s chief executive,

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Up to $818 million deal between J&J and Locus Biosciences points to a new path for CRISPR therapies


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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The up to $818 million deal between Locus Biosciences and Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a division of Johnson & Johnson) that was announced yesterday points toward a new path for CRISPR gene editing technologies and (potentially) the whole field of microbiome-targeted therapies.

Based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Locus is commercializing research initially developed by scientists at North Carolina State University that focused on Cas3 proteins, which devour DNA Pac-Man-style, rather than edit it like the more well-known Cas9-based CRISPR technologies being used by companies like Caribou Biosciences, Editas Medicine, Synthego, Intellia Therapeutics, CRISPR Therapeutics and Beam Therapeutics.

While the Cas9 CRISPR technologies can edit targeted DNA — either deleting specific genetic material or replacing it with different genetic code — Cas3 simply removes DNA strains. “Its purpose is the destruction of invading DNA,” says Locus chief executive, Paul Garofolo.

The exclusive deal between Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Locus gives Janssen

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Sophia Genetics bags $77M Series E, with 850+ hospitals signed up to its “data-driven medicine”


This post is by Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch


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Another sizeable cash injection for big data biotech: Sophia Genetics has announced a $77M Series E funding round, bringing its total raised to $140M since the business was founded back in 2011.

The company, which applies AI to DNA sequencing to enable what it dubs “data-driven medicine”, last closed a $30M Series D in fall 2017.

The Series E was led by Generation Investment Management . Also investing: European private equity firm, Idinvest Partners. Existing investors, including Balderton Capital and Alychlo, also participated in the round.

When we last spoke to Sophia Genetics it had around 350 hospitals linked via its SaaS platform, and was then adding around 10 new hospitals per month.

Now it says its Sophia AI platform is being used by more than 850 hospitals across 77 countries, and it claims to have supported the diagnosis of more than 300,000 patients.

The basic idea is to improve diagnoses by

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Synthego raises $110 million to make gene editing technologies more accessible


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Paul Dabrowski, the chief executive officer of Synthego, which provides genetically engineered cells to scientists and researchers, worries about a future where access to the genetic technologies that will reshape the world are only available to the few who can afford them.

To hear him tell it, that’s why Dabrowski began working on Synthego in the first place — to democratize access to the new technologies that will give scientists, researchers, and consumers new ways to rewrite the code that has defined human existence.

“People talk about access to the tools, but the question is access to the therapies,” Dabrowski said. “We’re talking about the basis of what does it mean to be human not right now, but in the next 100 years.”

Now, the company has a fresh $110 million in cash from new investors at Founders Fund and the company’s previous backers — 8VC and Menlo

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China is funding the future of American biotech


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine.

It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this year into life science and biotech in the US than they have back home, providing financing for over 300 US-based companies, per Pitchbook. That’s the story at Viela Bio, a Maryland-based company exploring treatments for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which raised a $250 million Series A led by three Chinese firms.

Chinese capital’s newfound appetite also flows into the mainland. Business is booming for Chinese medical startups, who are also seeing the strongest year of venture investment ever, with over one hundred companies receiving $4 billion in investment.

As Chinese investors

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As biological manufacturing moves to the mainstream, Synvitrobio rebrands and raises cash


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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The pace at which the scientific breakthroughs working to bend the machinery of life to the whims of manufacturing have transformed into real businesses has intensified competition in the biomanufacturing market.

That’s just one reason why Synvitrobio is rebranding as it takes on $2.6 million in new financing to pursue opportunities in biopharmaceutical and biochemical manufacturing. Under its new name, Tierra Biosciences, the company hopes to emphasize its focus on agricultural and biochemical products.

The company is one of several looking to commercialize the field of “cell-free” manufacturing — where biological engineers strip down the cellular building blocks of life to their most basic components to create processes that ideally can be more easily manipulated to produce different kinds of chemicals.

There’s a standard way to create these cell free processes (described quite nicely in The Economist).

Grab a few quarts of culture with some kind of

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23andMe might soon offer a more comprehensive $749 DNA service


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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23andMe is testing a $749 “premium” service for deeper health insights, according to several customers who saw a test page for the new product and posted about it on Reddit.

First spotted by CNBC, the company served up a test web page to several customers telling them about a service that would allow them to look at their “whole genome data.” However, when they clicked on the link provided, nothing happened. A few Redditors even posited the notification may have been a mistake as the link led nowhere.

But, according to the company, there’s no error here. 23andMe later confirmed to TechCrunch it sent out a test page to some customers to “gauge interest” in such a product. However, there’s “nothing planned” at this time for such a service, according to a 23andMe spokesperson.

The consumer DNA company charges $299 for its highest package right now, and

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How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare


This post is by Jeff Desjardins from Technology – Visual Capitalist


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How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare

How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare

Data is driving the future of business, and any company not prepared for this transformation is at risk of being left behind.

This is a reality in almost every sector, but it’s especially relevant to companies in the healthcare industry. That’s because the amount of health data being created is growing at a 48% rate annually, and by 2020, a Stanford University study estimates that 2,314 exabytes of healthcare data will be produced per year.

Simply put, the companies that can extract meaningful insights from these mountains of data will have a serious and durable competitive advantage – and those that don’t have a proper strategy for this boom in data will get lost in the weeds.

Breaking Down Big Data

Today’s infographic comes to us from Publicis Health, and it shows why big data is one of the six

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Implantable 3D-printed organs could be coming sooner than you think


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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At MBC Biolabs, an incubator for biotech startups in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, a team of scientists and interns working for the small startup Prellis Biologics have just taken a big step on the path toward developing viable 3D-printed organs for humans.

The company, which was founded in 2016 by research scientists Melanie Matheu and Noelle Mullin, staked its future (and a small $3 million investment) on a new technology to manufacture capillaries, the one-cell-thick blood vessels that are the pathways which oxygen and nutrients move through to nourish tissues in the body.

Without functioning capillary structures, it is impossible to make organs, according to Matheu. They’re the most vital piece of the puzzle in the quest to print viable hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs, she said.

“Microvasculature is the fundamental architectural unit that supports advanced multicellular life and it therefore represents a crucial target for bottom-up human tissue

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While the U.S. waits, China has been CRISPRing human cancer patients since 2015


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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 While the U.S. is just gearing up to the idea of CRISPRing its first humans, China seems to be benefiting from the “move fast and break things” — or cut them with the CRISPR scissors — motto. As The Wall Street Journal reports, China has already gene-edited 86 people using CRISPR-Cas9 since 2015. Unhindered by rules and regulations like the ones we have in America… Read More

Spider silk startup Bolt Threads closes on $123 million in Series D funding


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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 Bolt Threads, the startup making spider silk from microbugs, has raised a giant $123 million Series D round of funding. As we reported in November, an SEC filing showed the company had raised $106 million from Foundation Capital and Formation 8. Bolt now tells TechCrunch it has added to that amount, bringing up its total to $147 million raised so far. Read More

CRISPR’d pigs could produce low-fat bacon


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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 We truly live in amazing times. Chinese scientists just made skinnier pigs using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Do you know what this means? Low-fat bacon! I know, I know, for some, bacon without the fat does not sound that appealing. But for those watching their weight and missing the crispy taste of sizzled pig slices, there’s this brand new development. Read More

Cryonics: Putting Death on Ice


This post is by Nick Routley from Technology – Visual Capitalist


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Cryonic Infographic

Cryonics: Putting Death on Ice

There is a potent thread winding its way through generations of human culture. From Ancient Egyptian rituals to Kurzweil’s Singularity, many paths have sprung up leading to the same elusive destination: immortality.

Today, the concept is as popular as it’s ever been, and technological advances are giving people hope that immortality, or at very least radical life extension, may be within reach. Is modern technology advanced enough to give people a second chance through cryonics?

Today’s infographic, courtesy of Futurism, tackles our growing fascination with putting death on ice.

The Prospect of Immortality

Robert C. W. Ettinger’s seminal work, The Prospect Of Immortality, detailed many of the scientific, moral, and economic implications of cryogenically freezing humans for later reanimation. It was after that book was published in 1962 that the idea of freezing one’s body after death began to take hold.

One

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U.S. scientists have corrected a genetic heart mutation in embryos using CRISPR


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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 Speculation swirled after reports came out last week that a group of U.S. scientists had CRISPR’d human embryos for the first time. The results of that initial study have now been released and the findings are quite astonishing.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his colleagues from Oregon Health and Science University have successfully used the CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology to wipe out a… Read More