‘Baby biochips’ set to tackle nation’s infertility problem
- New-generation technology could boost the chances of conception for infertile couples, and aid the government’s plans to expand the population, as Yang Wanli reports. Twenty kilometers from Beijing’s downtown, scientists at the National Engineering Research Center of Beijing Biochip Technology, which made the biochips, are attempting to use bioscience to avert the potential crisis. The development process has now ended and the biochips, each no bigger than the palm of a 6-month-old baby, will undergo clinical testing in the near future, according to Xing Wanli, the center’s deputy director and also vice-president of CapitalBio Corp in Beijing.
Ascentage Pharma, Unity Biotech collab to ‘cure old age’
Apr 25, 2016
- China-based Ascentage–which is currently working on apoptosis-targeted cancer treatments–will work with Unity Biotechnology to develop senolytic treatments for age-related diseases in an attempt to roll the back years for seniors. The Ascentage team has been working for over a decade to create small-molecule drugs targeting programmed cell death while Unity–backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Venrock and Wuxi Healthcare Ventures–has been working for four years to work out the link between senescence and aging.
Scientists develop multicolored labeling system to track genomic locations in live cells
April 20, 2016
- CRISPRainbow, a new technology using CRISPR/Cas9 developed by scientists at UMass Medical School, allows researchers to tag and track up to seven different genomic locations in live cells. This labeling system, details of which were published in Nature Biotechnology, will be an invaluable tool for studying the structure of the genome in real time. “Most people are using CRISPR for editing genomes. We are using it to label DNA and track the movement of DNA in live cells,” said research specialist Hanhui Ma, PhD, who coauthored the study with Thoru Pederson, PhD, the Vitold Arnett professor of cell biology and professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology.
New genome editing technique can target single letters of DNA sequence
April 21 2016
- Building off the powerful gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, researchers have created a new tool that can target and change a single letter in a sequence of DNA. In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, researchers describe how they used base editing to correct a genetic variant associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease as well as another variant associated with breast cancer. To overcome this hurdle, Liu’s team experimented with eliminating the Cas9 enzyme’s ability to break a strand of DNA. They also added a second enzyme to the system that is known to convert cytosine to uracil (C to a U). Because uracil pairs with DNA bases like a thymine (T), the change is essentially a C to a T.
Chinese Scientists Unlock Protein Structure of Zika Virus: Report
Apr 20, 2016
- Chinese scientists have finally mapped out the structure of the NS1 protein of the Zika virus, the state-owned China Radio International reported on Wednesday. The discovery could eventually help researchers develop a vaccine for the virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, according to a report from CRI English.
Xinhua Insight: Chinese scientists develop mammal embryos in space for first time
- Chinese scientists on Sunday said they have successfully developed early-stage mouse embryos in space for the first time on a retrievable microgravity satellite set to return to Earth sometime next week. The SJ-10 research probe, launched on April 6, carried over 6,000 mouse embryos in a self-sufficient chamber the size of a microwave oven, according to Duan Enkui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
Scientists develop recipe for testosterone-producing cells
April 14, 2016
- Researchers led by teams at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Wenzhou Medical University of China have discovered a way to keep adult stem cells that are destined to become testosterone-producing cells multiplying and on track to fulfill their fate, a new study reports.
Human genetic research with Chinese characteristics
April 14, 2016
- Chinese genetic scientists must not be put off sensitive research by ethical concerns, the team behind a controversial study on modified human embryos said Wednesday as debate erupted over the paper. Researchers from Guangzhou Medical University said they used a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR to artificially induce a mutation in human cells and make them resistant to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Chinese Researchers Experiment with Making HIV-Proof Embryos
April 8, 2016
- Chinese fertility doctors have tried to make HIV-proof human embryos, but the experiments ended in a bust. The new report is the second time researchers in China revealed that they had a go at making genetically modified human embryos.
China’s Bloomage BioTechnology, world’s leading skin-filler maker, eyes smooth future
03 April, 2016
- In the face of fierce competition, the Hong Kong-listed Bloomage BioTechnology – the world’s biggest producer of hyaluronic acid (HA) dermal fillers and raw materials – is planning to diversify its products. Spurred on by the mainland’s burgeoning cosmetic surgery market, Bloomage started to make its own HA dermal fillers in 2012 and now has a 30 per cent share of the domestic market, chief executive Jin Xuekun said.
Alliance for stem cell technologies established in Guangzhou
- An international alliance for stem cell and precision medicines was established in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, on Tuesday, aiming to facilitate international exchange and promote the global industrial development of stem cells. “We need to strengthen cooperation with international players in the stem cell industry, an emerging sector with huge potential market growth,” said Chen Haijia, director of Guangdong Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Association.
A Chinese “mosquito factory” releases 20 million of the little buggers into the wild every week
March 16, 2016
- A team of scientists, led by Xi Zhiyong of China’s Sun Yat-sen University and Michigan State University, announced Monday (Mar. 14) that they are breeding mosquitoes that are infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which produces infertile eggs when they mate with females in the wild. Because the transmission of dengue and Zika is carried by mosquitos, the release of these laboratory insects could stop the diseases from becoming epidemics, the research team explains (link in Chinese).
Doctor Yin Hsieh: Father of the Largest Bioweapons Program in the Western Hemisphere
- Dr. Yin Hsieh arrived in the Dominican Republic during a turbulent period: the country had just been invaded by the United States the same year, and communist guerrillas sympathetic to Cuba were actively plotting to overthrow the government. Dr. Hsieh is perhaps best know for developing an extensive list of different rice varieties, and his contributions to genetics are accredited with helping the Caribbean country gain self-sufficiency in rice production, but his main job for the Dominican government has been aiding in the development of the nation’s biological weapons, a closely guarded secret which has only come to light within the past year.
China building bigger, strong beagles through genetics
March 13, 2016
- Scientists in China are engaged in a controversial practice: genetically modifying beagles to be more muscular. They say it’s for medical reasons, but they’ve been accused of animal cruelty. Of the 2,000 beagles at one laboratory in Southern China — two are making headlines. Scientists led by Dr. Lai Liangxue at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health claim they’re the first to successfully alter the genetic makeup of dogs.
China’s biotech revolution ushered in by entrepreneurs
March 7, 2016
- Scientists returning from the US, local talent and R&D give Chinese pharmaceuticals a boost. Several times she came close to quitting but was dissuaded by business partners. Fifteen years later, her persistence appears to be working. As, first, chief scientific officer of Hutchison China MediTech and now chief executive of Zai Lab, she is prominent among a wave of biotech entrepreneurs aiming to modernise China’s pharma industry and make the country a force in drug development. Most of them are “sea turtles” — the name given to Chinese professionals trained in the west who have returned home armed with qualifications and experience. All nine of Zai Lab’s top management studied at US universities. They have been drawn home by rapidly improving opportunities in China’s life science sector as Beijing pumps resources into its quest for a more innovative, high-value economy.
Chinese test tube baby born from frozen embryo after 12 years
- A healthy test tube baby was born Wednesday in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province from an embryo frozen 12 years ago, a record on the Chinese mainland. On Wednesday morning, a 40-year-old woman gave birth to her second son, weighing 3,440 grams at birth at Tangdu Hospital in provincial capital Xi’an.
Chinese scientists produce mice sperm, offspring from stem cells
Feb 26, 2016
- In a new breakthrough in the field of genetic engineering, Chinese scientists at Nanjing Medical University used stem cells from mice to create functioning sperm cells, wherein, when injected into egg cells produced fertile offspring.
China Builds a Faster Beagle in Gene-Editing Race With U.S.
February 23, 2016
- China has long set its heart on building an expertise in genomics and its government is pouring funds into a new — and sometimes controversial tool — called Crispr, encouraging its researchers to advance the technology. Chinese scientists say they were among the first in using Crispr to make wheat resistant to a common fungal disease, dogs more muscular and pigs with leaner meat. “I would rank the U.S. and China as first and second Crispr-Cas9 research countries, respectively, at this time. Both countries have much strength in this area,” said Paul Knoepfler, an associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy at the UC Davis School of Medicine in California, who recently published a book titled “GMO Sapiens” discussing the application of gene-modifying technology on humans. “The U.S. currently gets the edge in high-profile papers, Crispr biotech and intellectual property. China has published a lot in Crispr animals.”
Chinese scientists decode gene sequence of imported Zika virus
- Chinese scientists on Monday sequenced the genome of the country’s first imported Zika virus, helping with prevention and diagnosis. The success was achieved by scientists with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the provincial center in east China’s Jiangxi Province.
DNA rice breakthrough raises ‘green revolution’ hopes
February 15, 2016
- Rice-growing techniques learned through thousands of years of trial and error are about to be turbocharged with DNA technology in a breakthrough hailed by scientists as a potential second “green revolution”. Drawing on a massive bank of varieties stored in the Philippines and state-of-the-art Chinese technology, scientists recently completed the DNA sequencing of more than 3,000 of the world’s most significant types of rice.
A chance for China to overcome its growth hurdle
February 13, 2016
- Consider China. It is in the midst of undertaking the immense challenge of trying to restructure its economy after 30 years of uninhibited, unsynchronised growth. At the same time, the country is faced with growing resource scarcity in terms of both land and water, on top of a looming demographic crisis during which China’s elderly population (those over 65 years old) will balloon to nearly 240 million by 2030. There are two main drivers behind China’s emphasis on technology: national security and future export potential. In food security, as in other policy areas, Beijing has relied on multiple strategies to achieve its goals, including investing abroad in land and agricultural industries, joining free trade agreements, and consolidating and mechanising farming operations.
Chinese scientist develops liver tissue for transplants, drug screening
February 1, 2016
- Chinese researchers have engineered a liver tissue in the lab which closely mimics the organ’s complicated functions more effectively – a finding that can lead to the development of functional liver tissue for clinical applications and drug screening.
Monkeys genetically modified to show autism symptoms
25 January 2016
- Autism has a vast array of symptoms and types, and researchers think that at least 100 genes play a part. The scientists who led the latest work, which is published on 25 January in Nature (Z. Liu et al. Nature http://doi.org/bb3k; 2016), turned to the autism-related gene MECP2: many of the symptoms of autism are found in people who have extra copies of the gene (MECP2-duplication syndrome) as well as in people who have certain mutations in this gene (Rett’s syndrome). Researchers have engineered monkeys to have autism-related genes before (H. Liu et al. Cell Stem Cell 14, 323–328; 2014), but this is the first published demonstration of a link between those genes and the animals’ behaviour.
China Exclusive: Chinese scientists develop bioartificial liver
- Chinese scientists have developed a new bioartificial liver that can help liver failure patients survive long enough for an organ transplant. Designed to be attached outside a patient’s body, the bioartificial liver is based on human liver cells, according to research findings published in the new issue of international science magazine Cell Research on Friday.
CRISPR Dispute to Be Decided by Patent Office
January 12, 2016
- Yesterday, that dispute became official in the eyes of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when an administrative patent judge officially declared an “interference” between Doudna’s pending patent application and a dozen of Zhang’s already issued patents. The interference proceeding sets up a legal showdown that may strip Zhang of his patents and see the two scientists deposed under oath.
‘We Won’t Make Frankensteins,’ Cloning Giant Boyalife’s CEO Says
Dec 26 2015
- The head of a Chinese firm that is building the world’s biggest animal cloning factory has vowed not to use the technology on people — for now, at least. Biotech company Boyalife Group’s $30 million facility in the coastal city of Tianjin will produce embryos of cattle as well as racehorses and contraband-sniffing dogs when it becomes operational next year.
Global summit reveals divergent views on human gene editing
08 December 2015
- When nearly 500 scientists, ethicists, legal experts and advocacy groups from more than 20 countries came together in Washington DC last week to produce guidelines for the use of gene editing in humans, the meeting served as a potent reminder of how far genetic engineering has permeated society. Held on 1–3 December, the International Summit on Human Gene Editing was organized by the US national academies of sciences and medicine, the Royal Society in London and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The meeting highlighted China’s emerging prominence in genomics; much of the discussion surrounded an April publication by Chinese researchers who used the gene-editing technology CRISPR–Cas9 to modify a gene in non-viable human embryos (P. Liang et al. Protein Cell 6, 363–372; 2015).
Combination Stem-Cell Transplant May Benefit Type 1 Diabetes
December 08, 2015
- Transplantation of cells from umbilical cords along with autologous bone-marrow stem cells may represent a promising new approach for treating patients with established type 1 diabetes, a new proof-of-concept study suggests. One-year findings from an open-label randomized trial of 42 patients who received either the combined transplanted cells or standard care were presented December 1 here at the World Diabetes Congress 2015 by Xiumin Xu, director of China-USA Collaborative Human Cell Transplant Program at the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, and were simultaneously published in Diabetes Care.
Gene therapy cures leukemia patient in China
December 4, 2015
- Zhang Fang, a middle-aged woman, has been cured of leukemia after she was treated with CAR T therapy, Xinhua reported. “The cancer cells have disappeared from her body. She is the first patient who has been completely cured of the disease using gene therapy,” said professor Qian Cheng, director of the Bio-Treatment Centre of Southwest Hospital.
China ‘Clone Factory’ Scientist Eyes Human Replication
Dec 1, 2015
- The Chinese scientist behind the world’s biggest cloning factory has technology advanced enough to replicate humans, he told AFP, and is only holding off for fear of the public reaction. “The technology is already there,” Xu said. “If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology.” The firm does not currently engage in human cloning activities, Xu said, adding that it has to be “self-restrained” because of possible adverse reaction.
Human-genome editing summit to sample global attitudes
30 November 2015
- A large and international meeting on the ethics of human-genome editing is poised to begin — and researchers are curious about how perceived differences in attitudes will play out. Jointly organized by the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society, the meeting is expected to draw representatives from more than 20 countries, including India, Sweden and Nigeria.
China plans to clone everything from beef cattle to the family dog in this giant factory
November 23, 2015
- A fast-growing Chinese biotechnology company is to build a cloning factory to copy dogs, cows, racing horses, non-human primates, and other animals, state news agency Xinhua (link in Chinese) reports. Production is expected to start in 2016, after a 200 million yuan ($31 million) investment. The first animal to come down the line will be Japanese cows, in an attempt to lower the price of high-quality beef in the Chinese market, Dr. Xu Xiaochun, chairman and CEO of Boyalife, told Chinese media (link in Chinese). “[We are] now promoting cloned cows and cloned horses to improve China’s modern animal husbandry industry,” Xu said.
China’s Bold Push into Genetically Customized Animals
November 17, 2015
- China’s western Shaanxi Province is known for rugged windswept terrain and its coal and wool, but not necessarily its science. Yet at the Shaanxi Provincial Engineering and Technology Research Center for Shaanbei Cashmere Goats, scientists have just created a new kind of goat, with bigger muscles and longer hair than normal. The goats were made not by breeding but by directly manipulating animal DNA—a sign of how rapidly China has embraced a global gene-changing revolution. Geneticist Lei Qu wants to increase goatherd incomes by boosting how much meat and wool each animal produces. For years research projects at his lab in Yulin, a former garrison town along the Great Wall, stumbled along, Qu’s colleagues say. “The results were not so obvious, although we had worked so many years,” his research assistant, Haijing Zhu, wrote in an e-mail.
Production of Human Albumin in Pigs Through CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Knockin of Human cDNA into Swine Albumin Locus in the Zygotes
13 October 2015
- Precise genome modification in large domesticated animals is desirable under many circumstances. In the past it is only possible through lengthy and burdensome cloning procedures. Here we attempted to achieve that goal through the use of the newest genome-modifying tool CRISPR/Cas9. We set out to knockin human albumin cDNA into pig Alb locus for the production of recombinant human serum albumin (rHSA). HSA is a widely used human blood product and is in high demand. We show that homologous recombination can occur highly efficiently in swine zygotes. All 16 piglets born from the manipulated zygotes carry the expected knockin allele and we demonstrated the presence of human albumin in the blood of these piglets. Furthermore, the knockin allele was successfully transmitted through germline. This success in precision genomic engineering is expected to spur exploration of pigs and other large domesticated animals to be used as bioreactors for the production of biomedical products or creation of livestock strains with more desirable traits.
Baby girl returns home after successful stem cell treatment
November 12, 2015
- Zhao Jiaxin, now 10 months old, is the first person in China to be treated for Crohn’s disease using stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood. When she was just 8 days old, Zhao began suffering from diarrhea and fever — symptoms that had beset her sister, who died when she was 5 months old.
Light-driven bioelectronic implants without batteries
Nov 06, 2015
- Adding to the options for wirelessly powering implants from outside the body, researchers in China are proposing a light-driven powering device using near infrared rays (nIR). Flashing light impulses, which are absorbed by the device, induce temperature fluctuation, thus generating voltage/current pulses which can be used for charging a battery or biological stimulations.
Stem cell breakthrough on mice ‘reverses Alzheimer’s’: Chinese scientists in breakthrough experiment
31 October, 2015
- In a groundbreaking experiment, Chinese scientists have used human embryonic stem cells to nurse back to health mice afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. A team in Shanghai found that by transplanting neurons derived from the cells into the rodents they could reverse their cognitive degeneration.
Is iCarbonX the next Google in Biotech?
- On Oct 27, a new company called iCarbonX was officially unveiled in Shenzhen. This BT-IT venture was co-founded by Dr. Jun Wang, ex-CEO of Beijing Genomic Institute (BGI), and several other partners from bio and IT industries. The company aims to “Manage Your Digital Life”, as its name suggests; the name centers around “carbon” – the element of life, while the “i” and “X” indicate the company’s plan to fuse the internet and artificial intelligence to create something entirely new. After 16 years of running BGI, the biggest gene sequencing company in the world, Dr. Wang is ready for his next ambition, “We want to establish a health-related big data platform, to develop artificial intelligence to interpret and mine the data as well as to enable every individual to better manage their health and defeat diseases.”
First Gene-Edited Dogs Reported in China
October 19, 2015
- Scientists in China say they are the first to use gene editing to produce customized dogs. They created a beagle with double the amount of muscle mass by deleting a gene called myostatin. The dogs have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications,” Liangxue Lai, a researcher with the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, said in an e-mail.
Micropigs: Scientists In China To Sell Genetically-Altered Hogs For $1,600
3 October 2015
- Scientists from BGI, a genomics institute based in Shenzhen, China, had announced that the company will be selling its newly-developed micropigs for $1,600. The company, which is known to have provided exquisite breakthroughs in the field of genomic sequencing, publicized its decision to sell its genetically-altered hogs at the Shenzhen International Biotech Leaders Summit on Sept. 23.
U.S., China, UK experts to tackle vexed issue of gene editing
September 14, 2015
- Scientists from the United States, China and Britain will come together to discuss the future of human gene editing, which holds great promise for treating diseases but also has the potential to create “designer babies”. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society said on Monday they would join the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in co-hosting an international summit on the topic in Washington on Dec. 1-3.
China announces stem-cell rules
26 August 2015
- Chinese stem-cell scientists have welcomed long-awaited measures that, state media claim, will rein in rogue use of stem cells in clinics while allowing research. The measures — announced on 21 August by China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission through state media — offer a straightforward path towards clinical studies, researchers told Nature. But some also warn that the measures do not have the teeth needed to stop clinics offering unproven and unapproved treatments.
Chemical-only cell reprogramming transforms human and mouse skin cells into neurons
August 6, 2015
- Two labs in China have independently succeeded in transforming skin cells into neurons using only a cocktail of chemicals, with one group using human cells from healthy individuals and Alzheimer’s patients, and the other group using cells from mice. The two studies reinforce the idea that a purely chemical approach is a promising way to scale up cell reprogramming research that may avoid the technical challenges and safety concerns associated with the more popular method of using transcription factors. Both papers appear on August 6 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
Closer look offers clues on how DNA strands are separated during replication
July 30, 2015
- A team of researchers working in China has used newly developed cryo-electron technology to get a closer look at the mechanism involved in separating DNA strands necessary for natural replication of DNA. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes their study, what they were able to observe, and their theory on how the separation actually takes place. Mathew Bochman with Indiana University and Anthony Schwacha with the University of Pittsburgh offer a News & Views piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue.
Editing genes to cure HIV? Chinese team awarded US$2m to pursue anti-AIDS technology
28 July, 2015
- A team of Chinese researchers is using controversial gene-editing technology to develop a potential cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The scientists, led by Fu Xuemei at the Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, were recently awarded 12.8 million yuan (US$2.06 million) by China’s National Hi-Tech Research Development Programme (also known as the 863 Programme) for their work in adapting powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 as a tool to fight against HIV/AIDS.
Chinese scientists edit genes to produce artificial sperm capable of creating ‘army of half-cloned mice’
15 July, 2015
- Scientists in mainland China have successfully mass produced high-quality artificial sperm for the first time. “Our man-made sperms cells can be used to generate an army of half-cloned mice with ease and efficiency. These half-cloned mice will fight on the frontline in battles against cancer and other genetic health issues,” said professor Li Jinsong, lead scientist on the project with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences.
Double-muscled pigs created through gene editing by South Korean and Chinese scientists
July 2, 2015
- A ‘double-muscled’ pig has been created by editing just one gene by scientists in South Korea and China. However, the researchers created the double-muscle pigs by editing just one single gene, meaning the change is far less extreme than those seen in conventional genetic modification.
Chinese man donates stem cells to save Australian
- By the time Liu Mulin’s flight from Beijing had landed in Sichuan Province, southwest China, on Wednesday afternoon, his hemopoietic stem cells (HSCs) had already arrived in Australia.
China’s big biotech bet starting to pay off
June 9, 2015
- Years of pouring money into its laboratories, wooing scientists home from overseas and urging researchers to publish and patent is starting to give China a competitive edge in biotechnology, a strategic field it sees as ripe for “indigenous innovation.” These efforts were illustrated vividly in April – not without controversy – when scientists at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou published results of a ground-breaking experiment to alter the DNA of human embryos using new CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology.
Scientists swoon over stem-cell breakthrough that may cure ‘untreatable’ injuries
09 June, 2015
- Scientists in Shanghai have grown muscle stem cells in a test tube, a breakthrough that could potentially save the careers of top athletes and cure as-yet untreatable injuries. “It can generate enough stem cells to heal permanent wounds, especially those caused externally,” added Hu, who served as the lead author of a paper on the subject published in the latest issue of the journal Cell Research.
Signals activate dormant stem cells
27 May 2015
- Dormant stem cells — and the signals that activate them — are widespread across surfaces in adult mouse brains. Yi Eve Sun and Siguang Li of Tongji University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China, and their colleagues analysed patterns of gene expression in individual cells from some regions of the adult mouse brain
Chinese Researchers Stop Wheat Disease with Gene Editing
July 21, 2014
- Advanced genome-editing techniques have been used to create a strain of wheat resistant to a destructive fungal pathogen—called powdery mildew—that is a major bane to the world’s top food source, according to scientists at one of China’s leading centers for agricultural research.
Chinese biologists find key process to obtain adult stem cells
- BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) — The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced scientists have discovered a new method for reprogramming and obtaining induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), or stem cells derived from adult cells. The latest research by stem-cell biologist Pei Duanqing and his team revealed autophagy, a process in generating iPS, does not play a vital role in reprogramming. Previously, it was believed it did.
New form of DNA modification may carry heritable information
Posted By News On May 6, 2015
- Scientists at the University of Chicago, Harvard, and China have described the surprising discovery and function of a new DNA modification in insects, worms, and algae.
- Now, teams from UChicago, Harvard, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have identified an adenine DNA methylation that also epigenetically regulates cellular function in green algae, worms, and flies. Their three papers were published online April 30 in the journal Cell. He’s research group contributed to all three Cell papers, which report the presence and function of N6-methyladenine (6mA) in the three organisms.
Potentially Reversible Driver of Aging Found
- “The paper convincingly links deletion of the (Werner syndrome RecQ helicase-like) WRN gene to heterochromatin disorganization,” University of California, San Diego, developmental biologist Willis Li, Ph.D., told Bioscience Technology. “It is another example linking heterochromatin loss to aging.” Li’s team, uninvolved in the new work, previously showed in the fruit fly that aging is associated with gradual decline of global heterochromatin levels. He accomplished this by reducing heterochromatin using mutations in a gene called HP1, which accelerated aging, while increasing HP1 boosted heterochromatin levels and extended lifespan. All told, “these results support a heterochromatin loss model for aging,” Li said.
China-led research team sequences cotton genome
- BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) — A joint biological research team led by Chinese scientists has completed genome sequencing of cultivated upland cotton, a new breakthrough in cotton genome studies. The research sequenced and assembled the genome (AtDt) of gossypium hirsutum, an important fiber crop cultivated worldwide, providing insights into the genomic evolution of the cotton, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) said on Saturday.
Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9
Precise and easy ways to rewrite human genes could finally provide the tools that researchers need to understand and cure some of our most deadly genetic diseases
Genome Surgery by Susan Young
- It is likely to be at least several years before such efforts can be developed into human therapeutics, but a growing number of academic researchers have seen some preliminary success with experiments involving sickle-cell anemia, HIV, and cystic fibrosis (see table below). One is Gang Bao, a bioengineering researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has already used CRISPR to correct the sickle-cell mutation in human cells grown in a dish. Bao and his team started the work in 2008 using zinc finger nucleases.
- Bao has an idea of how such a treatment would work. Currently, physicians are able to cure a small percentage of sickle-cell patients by finding a human donor whose bone marrow is an immunological match; surgeons can then replace some of the patient’s bone marrow stem cells with donated ones. But such donors must be precisely matched with the patient, and even then, immune rejection—a potentially deadly problem—is a serious risk. Bao’s cure would avoid all this.
- After harvesting blood cell precursors called hematopoietic stem cells from the bone marrow of a sickle-cell patient, scientists would use CRISPR to correct the defective gene. Then the gene-*corrected stem cells would be returned to the patient, producing healthy red blood cells to replace the sickle cells. “Even if we can replace 50 percent, a patient will feel much better,” says Bao. “If we replace 70 percent, the patient will be cured.”
- “For many questions in biology, we want to know how different genes interact, and for this we need to introduce mutations into multiple genes,” says Rudolf *Jaenisch, a biologist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge Massachusetts. But, says *Jaenisch, using conventional tools to create a mouse with a single mutation can take up to a year. If a scientist wants an animal with multiple mutations, the genetic changes must be made sequentially, and the timeline for one experiment can extend into years. In contrast, *Jaenisch and his colleagues, including MIT researcher Feng Zhang (a 2013 member of our list of 35 innovators under 35), reported last spring that CRISPR had allowed them to create a strain of mice with multiple mutations in three weeks
- Because a CRISPR system can easily be designed to target any specific gene, the technology is allowing researchers to do experiments that probe a large number of them. In December, teams led by Zhang and MIT researcher Eric Lander created libraries of CRISPRs, each of which targets a different human gene. These vast collections, which account for nearly all the human genes, have been made available to other researchers.
- The biotechnology industry was born in 1973, when Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen inserted foreign DNA that they had manipulated in the lab into bacteria. Within a few years, Boyer had cofounded Genentech, and the company had begun using E. coli modified with a human gene to manufacture insulin for diabetics. In 1974, Jaenisch, then at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, created the first transgenic mouse by using viruses to spike the animal’s genome with a bit of DNA from another species. In these and other early examples of genetic engineering, however, researchers were limited to techniques that inserted the foreign DNA into the cell at random. All they could do was hope for the best.
- It took more than two decades before molecular biologists became adept at efficiently changing specific genes in animal genomes. Dana Carroll of the University of Utah recognized that zinc finger nucleases, engineered proteins reported by colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in 1996, could be used as a programmable gene-*targeting tool. One end of the protein can be designed to recognize a particular DNA sequence; the other end cuts DNA. When a cell then naturally repairs those cuts, it can patch its genome by copying from supplied foreign DNA.
- CRISPR changed everything. It replaces the DNA-targeting proteins with a short bit of RNA that homes in on desired genes. Unlike the complex proteins, RNA—which has nearly the same simple structure as DNA—can be made routinely in the lab; a technician can quickly synthesize the roughly 20-letter-long sequences the method requires. The system makes it easy for medical researchers to modify a genome by replacing, deleting, or adding DNA. CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”—clusters of brief DNA sequences that read similarly forward and backward, which are found in many types of bacteria.
- In 2012, Emmanuelle Charpentier, a medical microbiologist who studies pathogens at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, and Jennifer Doudna, a collaborator at the University of California, Berkeley, showed they could use a single RNA in conjunction with the cutting protein, an enzyme called Cas9, to slice any desired sequence of DNA in test tubes. It was still uncertain whether the method would work in animal cells, but in January 2013 came a dramatic breakthrough. Zhang and George Church, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, separately reported that the CRISPR/Cas9 system could be used for gene editing in the cells of animals, including humans.
- MIT’s Zhang, who is a member of the Broad Institute and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, is interested in the genetics behind mental illness. To try to understand these complex conditions, Zhang has helped develop multiple gene- and neuron-modifying tools, including TALENs and optogenetics, a technique that involves controlling neuron activity with laser light. When he first heard about CRISPR, in 2011, he began to engineer it for use in human cells. Now he’s using CRISPR to help reveal the genetic secrets behind such devastating and poorly understood conditions as schizophrenia and autism.
- Zhang can re-create, in both lab mice and cultured human cells, genetic variants found in people with autism and schizophrenia. “You can put a human mutation into the corresponding gene in a lab animal and then see: does that animal become less social or have a learning deficit?” he says. Then, he adds, you can study differences in the behavior and physiology of lab-cultured neurons grown from stem cells that have been modified with the same mutation. “With single-gene mutations, we will start to see aspects of the biological function that are involved in autism,” he says
- Late last year, Doudna, Zhang, Church, and two other pioneers of genome editing founded a startup that will develop novel treatments for human genetic diseases. In November the company, Editas Medicine, announced that it had raised $43 million in venture capital and said it plans to use genome-editing technologies against a broad range of illnesses. The launch of Editas should benefit from a resurgence of interest in gene therapy thanks to years of technological improvements, including safer mechanisms for delivering treatment. “The landscape has changed for gene therapy,” says Church. (There are still no gene therapies approved in the United States, though a number are in human *trials.) But he says the therapies that Editas will develop will be fundamentally different from the older approaches that use a virus to insert a gene into cells.
- These possibilities raise ethical questions. But if researchers prove they can safely correct diseases by editing the genome, it’s inevitable that some parents will also want to alter the genomes of healthy embryos. “If you can prevent mental retardation with gene therapy, presuming that that’s permissible, then there’s a whole spectrum of intellectual challenges that will be discussed,” says Church. Such discussions are likely to heat up as CRISPR becomes more widely used. For now, though, the technology is still evolving: while researchers like Bao, Church, and Zhang ultimately hope to cure some of our most intractable diseases, much of their time is still spent simply fine-tuning the tool and exploring its possibilities. But even in these early days, CRISPR has already transformed how these researchers think about manipulating the genome. They are ham-fisted no longer.
Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos
Rumours of germline modification prove true — and look set to reignite an ethical debate.
David Cyranoski & Sara Reardon 22 April 2015
- In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted — rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month2, 3 about the ethical implications of such work. In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using ‘non-viable’ embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.
- A Chinese source familiar with developments in the field said that at least four groups in China are pursuing gene editing in human embryos.
Global Stem Cells Group Announces Alliance with HANK Bioengineering Co., Ltd. in Shenzhen, China
The Global Stem Cells Group has established a collaborative alliance with HANK Bioengineering Co., Ltd. of Shenzhen, China.
MIAMI (PRWEB) March 02, 2015
- Global Stem Cells Group.com has announced a newly formed alliance with Shenzhen HANK Bioengineering Co., Ltd. and its Chinese-American founder Mingjie Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. The alliance will establish a stem cells training course in the City of Shenzen, Guangdong Province, China in September 2015. Shenzhen HANK is a biotechnology company established in 2013 by Zhang, an award-winning scientist, microbiologist and virologist, to integrate research, development, production, and sales of biomedical products. Zhang worked at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control from 1991 to 1993, the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) from 1993 to 1994, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1995 to 2013 in various research positions including National Research Center (NRC) senior associate from 1995 to 1997. In 2012 he earned the Scientific Achievement Award from the USFDA for outstanding achievement in natural killer (NK) cell research, and holds numerous awards for his work in the fields of HIV, HCV, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and quality performance.
- In 2013, Dr. Zhang expanded on his work in stem cell research and development by launching HANK Bioengineering Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, China. HANK is a 4,300 square foot (400 square meters) CFDA certified cGMP facility affiliated with HANK Bioengineering Institute’s Cell Biology and Molecular Immunology Laboratories. HANK has established close collaborations with more than five hospitals in China for clinical applications of its cell therapy products.
- Global Stem Cells Group and Zhang plan to launch a stem cell training course at the Shenzhen HANK facility in Guangdong Province, China in September 2015.
China’s Genetically Modified Cows Could Stop TB
By Brian Stallard Mar 04, 2015 04:30 PM EST
- China is introducing a new wave of genetically modified (GM) cows. And we’re talking ‘mad-scientist’ GMOs here – animals that boast genetic traits utterly impossible to create in nature. How could that ever be a good thing? Well, new research has revealed it can be beneficial in certain ways, with these latest cows promising to help the cattle industry withstand a deadly pandemic of Bovine Tuberculosis (B-TB).
- B-TB has been a problem for the cattle industry for a long time now, with the debilitating disease affecting well over 26,000 cattle in the United Kingdom alone in 2013, according to BBC News. In an effort to stop the epidemic in its tracks, the industry and government health officials wound up slaughtering all of these cattle, at a cost to taxpayers mounting up to £100 million (~$153m USD).
- However, just like with human TB, the prevalence of the disease has actually gone up as it continues to gain antibiotic resistance. That’s why researchers are now looking for alternatives for fighting B-TB, and one approach is to stop the disease from ever infecting cattle in the first place. To do that, researchers are giving cows the genes of TB-resistant mice. “Our results contribute to the control and prevention of bovine tuberculosis and provide a previously unidentified insight into breeding animals for disease resistance,” the researchers concluded in their report. However, it’s important to note that the study did not investigate the GM herds’ resistance to aggressive and overwhelming strains of TB. That, and the safety of the cattles’ products, is still under investigation.
Guidelines on stem cell technology to be released in China
Staff Reporter 2015-03-12 11:41 (GMT+8)
- The China Food and Drug Administration recently held a meeting with stem cell experts and announced that the formation of guidelines on the application of stem cells will be concluded during the first half of this year at the earliest, according to the report.
- An industry insider said China is at the forefront of stem cell research, citing experiments conducted in the 1980s by Wu Zuze, a former head of the Military Academy of Medical Sciences who successfully transplanted fetal liver stem cells in 11 patients. Nine of the patients are still alive today, the newspaper said. But the development of stem cell technology in China has been hampered by a lack of regulation, said the report.
- According to Zhong Hua, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Medical Science, the sector is currently involved in the collection and storage of stem cells, the development of stem cell technology, and transplants and treatment. Several listed Chinese companies, including VCAN Bio, Grandhope Biotech and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group), are involved in stem cell treatments, according to the report.
Chinese innovation: BGI’s code for success
Henny Sender February 16, 2015 7:03 pm
- Since the initial visit, Gates Foundation staffers have partnered BGI on various genetic research projects, from sequencing the rice genome to collaborating on the cancer genome project.
- “We represent a new model of an international Chinese organisation,” says Wang Jun, BGI’s chief executive, a graduate of Beijing University in artificial intelligence. “China has a legitimate shot to be a lead player on the international stage. Our technology can change the world.”
- “You can be brilliant here but you can be more brilliant in the US,” says one staffer who has lived and worked in the US for extensive periods of time. “It’s harder to be creative in the context of the mindset here.” That may be an exaggeration, but the structure of China’s education system is seen by many critics as a constraint on innovation. “The system is very incestuous,” says one Beijing-based academic. “It is very political. You have two choices, either to leave China and thrive or to get to the point where you don’t need Beijing’s money.”
- Shenzhen is now the technology incubator for China.
- It is home to BYD, the Chinese maker of electric vehicles, Huawei Technologies, the telecoms equipment maker, and Tencent, the internet portal.
- China has a number of advantages in the field of genomics. DNA sequencing is more about computer power and data mining than it is about breakthroughs in laboratories, investors say.
- While BGI’s roots are in China, it is seeking to become more international. In 2013, it acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company based in Mountain View, California for almost $118m.
- It also overcame political opposition, marking the first time a Chinese company successfully acquired a publicly traded US company.
- Competitors are multiplying, both at home and abroad. For big US tech companies such as Google and Microsoft, which are already in the information business, it is not a giant leap to genomics. While ecommerce company Alibaba is sharing its data processing capabilities with BGI, search engine Baidu has bought a data lab, suggesting the same dynamic may take place in China.
CBMG Acquires Novel T Cell Therapy Technology
The CAR-T cell therapy developed at the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital uses cancer patient’s own immune cells to attack tumors.
Asian Scientist Newsroom | February 18, 2015 | Pharma
- AsianScientist (Feb. 18, 2015) – Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. (CBMG), a biomedicine company engaged in the development of cellular therapies, has acquired the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital’s (“PLAGH”, Beijing, also known as “301 Hospital”) Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy, its recombinant expression vector CD19, CD20, CD30 and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor’s (EGFR or HER1) Immuno-Oncology patents (all pending), and Phase I/II clinical data of the aforementioned therapies and manufacturing knowledge.
- CAR-T cell therapy involves engineering cancer patients’ own immune cells to recognize and attack their tumors. Dr. Han Wei Dong, head of PLAGH’s Biotherapy Department, has conducted several preliminary clinical studies of various CAR-T constructs targeting CD19-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, CD20-positive lymphoma, CD30-positive Hodgkin’s lymphoma and EGFR-HER1-positive advanced lung cancer.
- Prior to acquiring PLAGH’s technology, the CBMG has made progress with recent acquisitions of Agreen Biotech Co. Ltd. and its T-Cell Memory technology, T Cell Receptor clonality analysis technology, as well as another third generation CAR-T, anti-PD-1, CD19 and aAPC cancer immunotherapy technologies from Persongen Biotechnology Ltd.
Doctors in China Unveil Groundbreaking Spinal Cord Surgery
By Dianne Depra, Tech Times | January 19, 11:27 AM
- Chinese scientists have been researching regenerative stem cell therapy for over 10 years now and the result of their work is the said surgery where stem cells were implanted into the patient’s spinal column. Regenerative nerve material developed by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences was used as well for the first spinal cord surgery in the world. Tang Fengwu from the China Police Neurological Hospital explained the procedure, detailing that a first surgery was performed on the patient which resulted in a scar covering the damaged part in the man’s spine. The scar tissue was cut out, revealing a gap about 2.8 centimeters in size. A tube filled with stem cells was then inserted into the gap and then sealed to end the surgery.
- According to Dai Jianwu, a research fellow from CAS’ Institute of Genetics and Development, spinal nerves are like cables. As such, collagenous fibers were used, designed to behave like a rail or a bridge that nerves can crawl along on as they grow. Stem cells will be producing regenerative tissues and these will help boost the nerves’ capacity to regenerate in the affected area of the spine.
- The first surgery was a success. It’s now time for the doctors and the patient’s family to wait and see how the procedure would turn out for the man. Six more spinal cord surgeries are lined up as part of the clinical trial, all potential opportunities for paralyzed individuals to start walking again.
China underlines cautious approach to biotech crops
By Dominique Patton BEIJING Tue Feb 3, 2015 3:05am EST
- (Reuters) – China will continue to promote research into genetically modified crops while maintaining strict controls on safety of the technology, a top agriculture official said on Tuesday, underscoring Beijing’s cautious approach towards biotechnology.
- It was the first time that the document, released early each year and focusing on agriculture, had explicitly addressed the increasingly fervent debate among the Chinese public around safety of GMO foods.
- China has poured billions of yuan into developing GMO seeds but has not dared to permit cultivation of biotech varieties of feed and food crops, citing consumer concerns over safety. Its position is also thought to be impacting the approval for import of genetically modified crops, which faces long delays.
- Han added that China follows international standards on safety and management of its biotech research in areas such as genetically modified rice and corn, and said that Beijing had no choice but to continue supporting the technology. “China, a big country with 1.3 billion people and its agricultural development facing increasingly serious environmental constraints, cannot afford to fall behind in research of GMOs.”
For many of China’s biotech brains-in-exile, it’s time to come home
SHANGHAI | By Irene Jay Liu Thu Feb 12, 2015 4:00pm EST
- “If returnees want to do innovation, in academia there is traditional resistance and old practices,” said Huiyao Wang at the Center for China & Globalization. “It’s the private sector that really attracts people to start new ventures.”
- China has committed more than $300 billion to science and technology, with biotech one of seven pillar industries in the latest Five-Year Plan.
- Returnee firms have listed in New York and London, work closely with ‘Big Pharma’ and attract investment from U.S. venture capital and multinationals.
- “I sometimes ask myself, ‘why did I return to China?’ I had a very comfortable life in the U.S. and my family’s still there,” said Michael Yu, Innovent’s founder and CEO. “But for lots of Chinese men, there’s always something in the heart … a desire to go back and do something. Biotech has only just started in China so you can have significant impact for a whole industry, for a country.” After completing postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco, Yu spent a decade at U.S. biotech firms before going home in 2006 to co-found Kanghong Biotech, which developed the first homegrown innovative monoclonal antibody to be approved by China’s regulators. He later launched Innovent with funding from Chinese and U.S.-based investors, including bioBAY, a government-funded biosciences park in Suzhou.
- Another returnee, Li Chen, was chief scientific officer at Roche’s China R&D center when, in 2009, he was invited to dinner by U.S.-based ARCH Venture Partners, which encouraged him to go out on his own. “It wasn’t something I was expecting,” Chen said. He launched Hua Medicine in 2011 with $50 million from U.S. and Chinese investors. Last month, it closed another $25 million in series-B financing.
- The returnee start-ups are leveraging shifts in the global R&D landscape. The financial crisis, expiry of blockbuster drug patents, and mega-mergers have forced major drugs firms to reprioritize, giving newcomers a chance to develop promising compounds already in the pipeline.
- “We’ve planted the seed for a fast-growing, innovation driven environment in China,” said Steve Yang, chief operating officer at WuXi AppTec. “The impact of this group will be better measured in another 10-20 years.”
China overtakes Japan in number of published articles on stem cells
Friday, Oct 03, 2014 The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network
- Japan fell below China in the number of articles published on stem cells, which are expected to lead to the practical realisation of regenerative medicine treatments and products, slipping from second to third place, according to a survey report by the Japan Patent Office. Amid increasingly fierce international competition in stem cell research, the United States, which tops the list, and China saw a steady increase in the number of articles in a wide range of research areas, while the number of articles in Japan grew at a sluggish pace in research areas other than induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, according to the report.
- The office analysed about 17,500 articles related to stem cell research published from 2008 to 2012 by using a database of the US National Library of Medicine, in which medical papers from around the world are registered. Concerning the nationalities of the institutions to which the lead authors of the articles belonged, the United States came in first place, as the lead authors of 5,129 articles belonged to US institutions. China came in second by increasing its number from the previous period to 1,640, and Japan placed third with 1,350.
- By research institution, the University of California topped the list, followed by Stanford University, as institutions in the United States accounted for half of the top 50. For Japan, five research institutions were in the top 50, such as Kyoto University in sixth place and the University of Tokyo in 14th. However, Japan was outnumbered by China, as seven Chinese institutions were within the top 50, led by Sun Yat-sen University in 11th place. By area of research, the number of articles on iPS cells in Japan increased 11 times over the period from 2008 to 2012. But the number of articles on mesenchymal stem cells, which can develop into bones or cardiac muscles, increased from 1.4 times to 2.5 times in Europe, the United States and China, while the figure in Japan remained flat.
China’s stem cell tech development
CCTV.com 01-18-2015 04:33 BJT
- The country’s research into spine cord diseases dates back to the 1960s. The number of stem cell-based clinical trials underway in China also underlines the country’s aptitude in the field. According to the US National Institutes of Health, China has the third-highest — at 164 studies — second only to the US and Europe. In research output, China is also quickly catching up. Since the beginning of 2006, it has been the “second most productive country by volume of publications”.
- Meanwhile, since 2002, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology has provided plenty of research funding through China’s stem cell programs. Two famous ones are the “973” plan and the “863” program. The former focuses on basic research and the latter on application. Grant sizes from both can reach up to 5 million US dollars.
China’s genomics success shows big data challenges
Lauren Hilgers, special to CNBC.com Thursday, 12 Jun 2014
- Ten years ago, when scientists amassed raw data for the first mapped human genome, it required years of collaborative effort. Today, BGI Shenzhen, the world’s largest genomics research institute, can do it in two hours or less.
- BGI hopes to overcome the bottleneck by sharing data. For World Hunger Day in May, for instance, BGI made over 13 terabytes of rice genome data available. Researchers can download data on individual strains of rice from BGI’s website. Once analyzed, the information will help scientists breed and engineer higher-yield strains of rice.
- BGI is developing a number of platforms to deal with bigother data issues by making analytical tools easily available. Its Easy Genomics platform aims to offer data access throughcloud storage. The platform enables researchers to perform analysisin a web browser using built-in computation algorithms and datamanagement tools and doesn’t require local data storage.
Stem-cell trials give new hope to heart patients
2014-08-26 09:44 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan
- China’s patients with chronic heart failure – a serious and common condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood – will soon have access to the stem-cell-based therapy C-Cure. Eight to 10 trial sites are expected to be set up at renowned public medical institutions in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, in addition to others around the world, to test the safety and effectiveness of the therapy.
- It is the first stem-cell therapy for cardiology to enter Phase 3 of a clinical trial in China, he noted.
- The therapy reprograms the patient’s own stem cells into new heart cells to rebuild the heart, according to Atta Behfar, director of cardiovascular regeneration at Mayo Clinic in the US. He has played an active part in developing the technology that directs the patient’s cells to become heart cells. Mayo Clinic was also involved in previous clinical trials of C-Cure in the United States.
China’s stem cell industry set to grow rapidly
2014-09-16 13:58 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: Wang Fan
- China’s stem cell industry is expected to grow rapidly in the years ahead, as more preferential policies will be issued to support its development, insiders said. “The stem cell industry will be greatly supported by the government’s policies as the country has already seen a boom in scientific research in the industry,” said Chen Haijia, founder and chairman of the Guangzhou Saliai Stem Cell Science and Technology Co. China currently has about 100 companies engaged in stem cell research and development. Its sales revenue will reach 30 billion yuan ($4.88 billion) in 2015, according to the Guangzhou-based company.
China tests stem-cell therapy for heart disease
Reporter: Grace Brown 丨 CCTV.com 09-29-2014 13:08 BJT
- stem cell therapy, a treatment now being tested at a Beijing hospital, could help. A machine is used to sort the stem cells from the ordinary cells. Stem cells are very rare but very valuable, because they help regenerate organs. Stem-cell therapy works by re-programming patients’ own cells into new organ cells, such as heart cells. If it passes this latest trial, it will enter the Chinese market and potentially save millions of lives.
- “Stem-cell therapy is very promising to deal with chronic heart disease. After one-two years, we want to get results. But in the world, we are trying to find any standard, any guideline. So I am afraid, if this new technique is over-used, or illegally used, it may injure patients,” Prof. Zhou Yujie, vice-president of Beijing Anzhen Hospital, said.
2014 Biotech China to be held from May 14-16; with focus on industrial parks
Nanjing, China Monday, April 07, 2014
- With a view to display the latest technologies and products in the bio pharmaceutical field, Biotech China, one of the major Chinese biotech exhibition and conference, will be oranising the 2014 Biotech China from May 14 to16 in Nanjing, China. Through this event they plan to attract exhibitors and participants from across the globe by setting up business oriented fringe programmes. Built in economically developed areas and close to talents pools, industrial parks are playing an essential and indispensable role as the carrier cum incubator for start-ups and SMEs in the development of the new emerging bio pharmaceutical industry in China. Featured with extensive capital invest, high risk, and long research and development (R&D) circle, among others, developing bio pharmaceutical industry requires high-tech scientific infrastructure and sustainable human resource for R&D.
- Biotech China will be an excellent opportunity to meet the key players in the Chinese and international bio industrial parks and incubator scenes. Bio Alps from Switzerland and clusters from other countries will also be present and participate in the first China Summit Forum on Bio-Medicine Industrial Park Development on the second day of the exhibition. The participating industrial parks include Nanjing Zhongshan Life Science Park, Nanjing Biotech and Pharmaceutical Valley, Jiangsu Life Science & Technology Innovation Park, Wuhan National Bio Industry Base (BioLake), Shandong International Biotechnology Park, Beijing Yizhuang Biomedical Park, Chengdu Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone, as well as Bio Alps.
- Taking advantage of the new FTA between Switzerland and China, Bio Alps, the life science cluster of Western Switzerland, will lead a delegation of eight Swiss companies to 2014 Biotech China. Bio Alps promotes synergies between academia, entrepreneurs, investors, authorities and new businesses to translate ideas into new products and bring new technologies to market. US Gene Synthesis Heads CROs at Biotech China GenScript, the largest gene synthesis provider in the US., and a leading biology CRO in the world, has recently confirmed its participation at 2014 Biotech China. GenScript is a leading biology CRO focusing exclusively on early drug discovery and development services. Built on an assembly-line mode, one-stop solution, continuous improvement, and stringent IP protection, GenScript provides a comprehensive portfolio of services that include Bio-Reagent, Bio-Assay, Lead Optimisation, and Antibody Drug Development which can be effectively integrated into a value chain and operations. The company develops pre-clinical drug candidates time-efficiently and cost-effectively.
China gets serious about biotech
Dan Nevrivy and Rob Bakin
- Daniel J. Nevrivy, Ph.D. is the founder of Nevrivy Patent Law Group, a Washington, DC-based firm that assists biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies with their intellectual property needs. Robert E. Bakin, Ph.D., is a registered patent agent. Before becoming a patent agent, Robert was a cancer Rob Bakinresearcher at the University of Virginia and Georgetown University.
- China’s growing capability and commitment to innovative research was highlighted by recent reports that two separate teams of Chinese scientists successfully transformed normal adult cells into embryonic stem cells and subsequently produced live mice from the newly created cells. Dr. Fanyi Zeng, one of the principal investigators in the study, will be discussing her heralded work at the upcoming World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Once a weak aggregate of individual researchers, institutes, companies, and investors, the Chinese biotech industry grew 30% annually to $3 billion between 2000 and 2005.  By 2010, the Chinese biotech market is projected to reach $9 billion.
- Chinese biotech companies are highly dependent on governmental funding at all levels including state, provincial, and local. The two major state funding programs are The National High Technology Research and Development Program (a.k.a. the 863 Program) and the National Basic Research Program (a.k.a. the 973 plan). The former is geared more toward applied research and commercialization, the latter toward early-stage research.
- Patent statistics are a reliable, albeit imperfect, indicator of innovation. In 2007, China became the third largest patent-filing country in the world behind only the United States and Japan in terms of number of annual patent filings. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of patents granted to Chinese applicants increased by 26.5%.
- Indicative of a strong domestic interest in biotech research and development, Chinese entities make up 79% of biotech patent filings at the Chinese Patent Office. Additionally, out of over 1,800 novel molecule patents published by the Chinese Patent Office from 2000-2008, 49% of the novel molecule patents were for biologics.
- The Chinese have also increased their international patent application filings by 19% this year (albeit from a relatively low number), while U.S. international patent application filings have fallen a sobering 14% over last year.
- Despite these advances, problems still exist for the Chinese with international perceptions of weak intellectual property enforcement, deficiencies in financial mechanisms that promote innovation, and drug quality issues. China will need to vigorously address these issues before it can be viewed as a potential future competitor. Moreover, Chinese firms and institutes will need to significantly increase their international patent application filings if they want to attract increased interest from international partners or investors.
- However, China’s future potential to compete internationally in this industry should not be underestimated. Over the past decade, China’s leaders have devised and successfully executed complex economic strategies and have positioned the country to be a major force in the global economy.
- Moreover, more and more Western-trained Chinese “sea turtles” are returning home to work in the Chinese biotech industry. And who can blame them? The Chinese government is throwing vast sums of money into the domestic biotech industry. The flow of these scientists back home could provide the talent and know-how needed to position China’s domestic industry to compete internationally in the future.
Stem Cells Make In-Lab Step Toward Specialization
- “Everybody knows that for an embryo to form, somehow a single cell has a way to self-organize into multiple cells, but the in vivo microenvironment is not well understood,” said study leader Ning Wang, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at the U. of I. “We want to know how they develop into organized structures and organs. It doesn’t happen by random chance. There are biological rules that we don’t yet understand.”
- During fetal development, all the specialized tissues and organs of the body form out of a small ball of stem cells. First, the ball of generalized cells separates into three different cell lines, called germ layers, which will become different systems of the body. This crucial first step has eluded researchers in the lab.
- “It’s very hard to generate tissues or organs, and the reason is that we don’t know how they form in vivo,” Wang said. “The problem, fundamentally, is that the biological process is not clear. What is the biological environment that controls this, so they can become more organized and specialized?”
- Wang’s team demonstrated that not only is it possible for mouse embryonic stem cells to form three distinct germ layers in the lab, but also that achieving the separation requires a careful combination of correct timing, chemical factors and mechanical environment.
- By adjusting the mechanical environment, the researchers were able to observe how the forces affected the developing cells, and found the particular combination that yielded the three germ layers. They also found that they could direct layer development by changing the mechanics, even creating an environment that caused the layers to form in reverse order. Now, Wang’s group is working to improve their technique for greater efficiency. He hopes that other researchers will be able to use the technique to bridge the gap between stem cells and tissue engineering.
- “It’s the first time we’ve had the correct three-germ-layer organization in mammalian cells,” Wang said. “The potential is huge. Now we can push it even further and generate specific organs and tissues. It opens the door for regenerative medicine.”
Stem cell industry takes off in China amid lack of regulation
Staff Reporter 2014-06-04
- The global stem cell industry has had a potential market value of about US$80 billion over the past two years, and is expected to reach around US$400 billion by the year 2020, the Shanghai-based National Business Daily reports, citing unnamed industry experts. China’s stem cell industry has been widely touted as having bright prospects despite unclear policy, the report said.
- Currently, China has formed comparatively complete stem cell production chains, including upstream businesses such as providing stem cell collection and storage, and downstream businesses in offering stem cell isolation, amplification and other technical services. The stem cell storage industry has even seen tough competition. The competition is seen as normal as the stem cell industry has a high gross profit margin of more than 70%, experts said. The competition will help reshuffle the industry, said Wang Libin, director of Ningxia Medical University General Hospital’s Stem Cell Research Institute.
- In Chongqing alone, nearly 10 stem cell storage companies have been established, insiders said.
- Experts and industry insiders including Wang are all optimistic for the stem cell industry’s future prospects despite the current disorderly state of operations. They are urging the government to set up a clear supervisory policy and to legislate for the industry.
No Extra Mutations in Modified Stem Cells, Study Finds
Wed, 07/09/2014 – 4:16pm
- The new study shows that gene-editing technologies are specific to their targets and do not introduce harmful mutations, clearing the way for the development of safe therapies in the clinic. The left panel shows misshapen nuclear envelopes (red) from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from cells with Parkinson’s disease (DNA in blue). The right panel shows similarly induced cells that have been gene-edited to restore the cells. Click here for a high-resolution image. (Source: Salk Institute for Biological Studies)
- “As cells are being reprogrammed into stem cells, they tend to accumulate many mutations,” said Mo Li, a postdoctoral fellow in Belmonte’s lab and an author of the new paper. “So people naturally worry that any process you perform with these cells in vitro—including gene editing—might generate even more mutations.”
- To find out whether this was the case, Belmonte’s group, in collaboration with BGI and the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in China, turned to a line of stem cells containing the mutated gene that causes sickle cell disease. They edited the genes of some cells using one of two HDAdV designs, edited others using one of two TALEN proteins, and kept the rest of the cells in culture without editing them. Then, they fully sequenced the entire genome of each cell from the four edits and control experiment.
- While all of the cells gained a low level of random gene mutations during the experiments, the cells that had undergone gene-editing—whether through HDAdV—or TALEN-based approaches—had no more mutations than the cells kept in culture.
- The finding, Li added, doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no inherent risks to using stem cells with edited genes, but that the editing process doesn’t make the stem cells any less safe.
Mice made from induced stem cells
Technical feat shows that the different route to stem cells can indeed make a full mammal body. David Cyranoski
Published online 23 July 2009
- Both groups are now trying to understand what differences between iPS cells and embryonic stem cells might explain the abnormalities, high death rates, low efficiency rates and the fact that most iPS cell lines don’t seem to work in making mice. Zeng and Zhou found, for one thing, that timing was important: cells that formed iPS cell colonies quickly — after 14 days — were successful, whereas those that formed colonies after 20 or 36 days did not work. Gao suggests that “aberrant reprogramming” might be to blame, at least for the low efficiency rates.
- Such mouse studies should help researchers to understand fundamental differences between human embryonic stem cells and iPS cells as well.
- Zhou and Zeng are pursuing several new avenues, including comparing the iPS mice with mice cloned with conventional techniques, and working to prove that the same experiment can be done with adult mice.
- This would essentially be a new way to clone adult mammals — reprogramming DNA from an adult and generating a genetically identical individual. As a potentially easier method that produces fewer abnormalities than conventional cloning, it might evoke interest among mavericks as a tool for human cloning.
- Zhou says he hopes that researchers will take advantage of the technology as “an important model for understanding reprogramming”. He adds: “It is not intended to be a first step towards using iPS cells to create a human being.”
Hong Kong stem-cell trial gives spinal patients hope
1 year ago June 26, 2013 11:48PM
- A RESEARCHER into severe spinal cord injuries said trials for stem-cell therapy showed groundbreaking results in helping immobile patients walk again. After progress in a second round of tests using stem cells to regrow nerve fibres, the China Spinal Cord Injury Network (ChinaSCINet) has applied for regulatory approval in China for a third and final phase, which it hopes to start in the autumn.
- He said that 15 out of 20 patients in the Chinese city of Kunming, who received umbilical cord blood cell transplants and intensive walking therapy, were on average able to walk with minimal assistance seven years after complete spinal cord injury. “It’s the first time in human history that we can see the regeneration of the spinal cord,” Dr Young said.
- “Hong Kong is going to be way ahead of all the other countries if the spinal cord injury trial turns out to be positive,” Dr Young said. “That means Hong Kong will be the centre for stem-cell therapies.” Dr Young also said China is investing heavily into stem-cell research, while the technology remains highly controversial in the United States because of the anti-abortion camp’s concerns about cells derived from human embryos.
Chinese Researchers Find Stem Cells Effective in Treating Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
SHENZHENBEIKE BIOTECHNOLOGIES CO/PRN ASIA Posted on: 13 May 14
- Chinese researchers have recently published new findings in Arthritis Research & Therapy a top peer-reviewed journal in the field of systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases regarding the safety and effectiveness of umbilical cord (UC) derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in treating 40 patients with severe and refractory Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).
- The recent forty patient multi-center study was undertaken to assess the safety and efficacy of allogeneic UC MSC transplantation (MSCT) in patients with active and refractory SLE. The clinical trial was sponsored by Beike Biotechnology Co. Ltd. (Beike) (http://beikebiotech.com) China’s leading stem cell research and regenerative medicine company who also provided the stem cells and research oversight. The main treatment facility was the Department of Rheumatology and Immunology at the Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University Medical School. The full study can be seen here: (http://arthritis-research.com/content/pdf/ar4520.pdf)
- Dr. Sean Hu Beike founder and study contributor noted “We are very pleased with the results we have seen in our clinical trial. While some severe cases experienced relapse after 6 months the results show a markedly improved quality of life expectation. This is a big step forward in combating autoimmune disease. We will now be looking to further our SLE research efforts to find even better results.”
Scientists develop safe and easy way to make stem cells
Friday 19 July 2013 – 5am PST
- The researchers showed that the CiPSCs were pluripotent by introducing them into developing mouse embryos. As they grew and were born, the resulting mice showed signs that the CiPSCs had contributed to the formation of all tissue types, including heart, brain, liver, skin, and muscle.
- The team believes the study opens the possibility of making “functionally desirable cell types” for regenerative medicine by using specific chemicals or drugs to do the cell reprogramming instead of using gene manipulation and difficult and expensive biological procedures.
- Sheng Ding, a reprograming researcher at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California, told Nature News that while Prof. Hongkui and colleagues have made “significant progress” in the field with this new study, the CiSPC approach is not likely to be widely used until they can show it works with human cells as well as mouse cells. Earlier this month, scientists in Japan reported how they managed to grow functioning human liver tissue from stem cells, bringing the day closer when engineered tissue can be used to alleviate the acute shortage of donor tissue for transplants.
China’s Recipe for Stem Cell Success
The Yin and Yang of Regenerative Medical Research and Therapy
By Dominique S. McMahon, Halla Thorsteinsdóttir, Peter A. Singer and Abdallah Daar | Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
- The government has employed four main strategies in this effort. The first focuses on people. China made recruiting Chinese researchers back to the country a specific strategy within their 11th Five Year Plan for 2006-2010, indicating that engaging “internationally published” returnees is of primary importance to the development of the science sector.
- China’s second major strategy—generous financing—is a more common but still essential strategy for building the regenerative medicine sector. The Ministry of Science and Technology has made up to $293 million available for stem cell research alone between 2006-2010, with an additional $20 million per year coming from the Chinese Academy of Science. [4, 5]
- In addition to these inputs, two other factors have been key to China’s success in regenerative medicine: permissive regulations for stem cell research, and a clear focus of resources on applications of the science.
- Rules on embryonic stem cell research in China are more permissive than those in many jurisdictions in the United States, and are similar in nature to what is allowed in the UK. These regulations permit therapeutic cloning, the use of surplus embryos or discarded fetal cells from abortions, and embryos created from somatic cell nuclear transfer or parthenogentic split blastocytes, and in some cases, the fusion of human genetic material with nonhuman oocytes. The embryo in Chinese religions is not typically perceived as having personhood, so embryonic stem cell research was neither as ethically contentious nor as hotly debated as it was in the United States and other parts of the world.
- Up until now, limited regulation of clinical stem cell therapies in China has allowed some firms and hospitals to offer controversial stem cell therapies without requiring the scientific evidence to back them up.
- International critics of stem cell research in China have often erroneously lumped together stem cell research with these stem cell clinics, when they are in fact quite distinct. Top-quality research on regenerative medicine in China is mostly produced at academic institutions, national research centers, and by few small firms.
- China’s progress in regenerative medicine has gone largely unnoticed because of the Western media’s focus on stem cell tourism, but this progress is a source of national pride and shows no signs of slowing.
- Our analysis shows the importance of supportive research policies, permissive research regulations, and consistent long-term financing for priority areas, as well the importance of developing a sustainable and highly skilled labor force dedicated to developing therapeutic applications to basic research.
Stem Cell Science On the Rise in China
Weiping Yuan1, Douglas Sipp2, Zack Z. Wang3, Hongkui Deng4, Duanqing Pei5, Qi Zhou6, Tao Cheng1, Volume 10, Issue 1, 6 January 2012, Pages 12–15
- The roots of stem cell research in China can be traced back nearly half a century to 1963, when embryologist Dizhou Tong generated the world’s first cloned fish, an Asian carp, by somatic cell nuclear transfer (Tong et al., 1963). The following year, hematologist Dao-Pei Lu at Peking University People’s Hospital performed China’s first syngeneic bone marrow transplantation for the treatment of severe aplastic anemia (Lu, 1981). The work on mouse hematopoietic stem cell kinetics in the late 1970s led by Chu-tse Wu represented some of the earliest efforts in stem cell biology in China (Wu et al., 1985). These, together with many other achievements, stood for years as an early promise of things to come. Following 3 decades of economic restructuring and growth since the late 1970s, China is now increasingly able to address its national goals in higher education, research and development, and public health. As with many Asian countries looking to diversify their economies to embrace a more innovation-based approach, China has looked to stem cell research with great interest in recognition of its rapid pace of advances and tremendous clinical promise. The ensuing concentration of funding and facilities by national, provincial, and municipal governments—and the absence of public controversies that have hampered work in areas such as human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in some countries in the West—has enabled China to build a stem cell research community nearly from the ground up in a single decade. Enormous strides have been made in the quantity and quality of China’s research output in fundamental, translational, and clinical areas of the stem cell field, even as compared with the situation as recently as 5 years ago (Murray and Spar, 2006). While these efforts remain very much a work in progress, the rapid pace of development and increased research quality are promising signs of things to come.
- In 1986, China launched a major applied research initiative known as the “863” plan, and a basic science research program under its later counterpart, the “973” plan, both administered by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) (http://program.most.gov.cn/). In 2001, two independent stem cell 973 programs (led by Lingsong Li and Huizhen Sheng) were launched. Until recently, most stem cell basic research projects were funded under the Development and Reproduction Key Program, a derivative of the 973 plan. A number of subsequent funding initiatives intended to further promote stem cell research, applications, and public awareness have been established by MOST and other ministries and public agencies, as summarized in Table 1. Of these, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) in particular has seen its budget increase by over 20% per annum since 1986; its 2011 budget stands at 12.4 billion RMB (∼$1.95 billion), an increase of more than 50% from the previous year (of this amount, 226 million RMB [∼$35.5 million] is allocated to stem cell research). In total, the national government’s stem cell research funding commitment is estimated at more than 3 billion RMB (close to $500 million) over the next 5 years. This amount excludes local government funding, industry support, and other initiatives, such as the National New Drug Development Plan.
- A look at international publication trends shows how the country’s investments are already beginning to pay a dividend in scientific productivity. From 2006 to 2010, China’s stem cell research output jumped from 176 articles to 677, a 285% increase (see Table 2). This represents an increase from less than 3% of the world total of stem cell research publications to more than 7%. While this represents only about one-fifth of the US total (US stem cell publications comprise 38% of the world total), China’s prolific output has neared that of Japan, and stands to outpace it in 2011 if current trends continue.
- Some of China’s stem cell work has already gained international recognition. Following the first report of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), Chinese scientists were quick to adopt the technology and soon made contributions to this rapidly developing field, such as identification of p53 as a major barrier for iPSC generation (Zhao et al., 2008), some of the first evidence for the pluripotency of mouse iPSCs (Kang et al., 2009 and Zhao et al., 2009), and the importance of mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) to iPSC induction (Li et al., 2010). A number of iPSC lines have also been derived from novel species, such as rat, pig, and rhesus monkey (Wu et al., 2009). In addition, studies on intestinal stem cells (Lin et al., 2008), direct conversion of fibroblasts into hepatocytes (Huang et al., 2011), and demonstration of Tet3 in germ cell reprogramming (He et al., 2011) have also received considerable attention in the field.
- China has also actively participated in global stem cell research efforts, such as the International Stem Cell Forum, and organized or co-organized a number of high-profile international conferences on stem cell research (http://www.selectbiosciences.com/conferences/IFSC2010/). National and local stem cell research organizations have also been active, with at least three independent national stem cell societies and two major stem cell industrialization alliances in existence at present, although the scope of each varies considerably. A more consolidated, better-coordinated approach would doubtless further enhance the country’s productivity and opportunities for exchange, and highlight the best of China’s stem cell science to the world. The recently established National Oversight and Coordination Committee on Stem Cell Research, chaired by the Minister of Science and Technology of China (Gang Wan), will likely boost collaborative efforts between stem cell researchers in China. Further participation by China’s researchers, especially those of the younger generation, in international meetings will also be critical to achieving these goals.
- A number of metropolitan areas, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Chengdu, have attracted the lion’s share of stem cell research funding, infrastructure, and talent, and research synergies can be clearly seen in these cities. This has allowed the establishment of a number of centers for stem cell research in major institutions, such as the CAS and CAMS systems, Peking University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tongji University, Sun Yat-Sen University, and Zhejiang University, which have become national powerhouses in the field. Researchers from smaller cities or less visible institutes continue to have less favorable chances at receiving adequate funding, but this too is changing as the top universities and institutions slow recruitment and greater numbers of highly qualified researchers are recruited to other top universities in China, such as the so-called “985” and “211” universities (which can access special funds from the Chinese national and local governments).
- China’s policymakers must next formulate workable strategies for developing its burgeoning stem cell enterprise, as has been achieved in many other areas over the past 30 years, specifically with an eye to coordinating the many diverse initiatives to prevent redundancy and promote cooperation. While publications are important for the country to demonstrate its ability to keep pace with the cutting edge of the field, they are not the ultimate goal of its investments. China’s research force and funding scale are both only a fraction of that of the United States or many countries in Europe, and incremental new findings in basic research will not win China a leading position in this arena. What China can offer uniquely are some of the largest resources for medical research and innovation in the world. Confronted with the healthcare needs of a rapidly aging population of nearly 1.4 billion, the impetus behind much stem cell research to date has understandably been clinical translation and development. The vast size of its demographic, however, also represents a remarkable opportunity for physician-scientists to work with large, treatment-naive patient populations in medical conditions that may be underrepresented in clinical research in other countries. With economic modernization, cancer and heart disease have rapidly become leading causes of death, and diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome are all on the rise. Traffic and workplace accidents have left China with more spinal cord injury patients than any country in the world, and endemic hepatitis B virus affects more than 100 million patients across the country. Thalassemias are common in southern China, while Keshan disease, a congestive cardiomyopathy caused by selenium deficiency, is prevalent in the northeast. For this reason, stem cell research in China should further emphasize its translational potential to better meet the needs of patients suffering a broad spectrum of diseases. In basic research as well, more emphasis should be given to the roles and impact of stem cells in disease, a critical prerequisite yet underinvestigated area in stem cell medicine.
Chinese firm’s bid to allow parents to pick their smartest embryos
By MARK PRIGG PUBLISHED: 00:41 GMT, 15 January 2014
- A Chinese firm claims it is getting closer to allowing parents to pick the embryo most likely to succeed. Researcher believe that 50-80% of what determines IQ could be inherited. Now a Chinese firm is mapping the genes of people who are gifted in maths in a bid to isolate the genes that make them smarter that the average person.
- B.G.I., formerly called Beijing Genomics Institute, is the world’s largest genetic-research center, and already has an initial batch of 2,000 DNA samples from high-IQ subjects. Researchers then plan to compare these against a sample from the general population – and hopefully isolate what makes them special. In theory, this knowledge could then be used to allow parents to pick ‘smart embryos’. Other divisions of the Chinese giant already offer genetic testing, leading some to speculate it could eventually launch a screening programme for prospective parents.
- In fact, China Development Bank, a state bank that lends to government pet projects, has given BGI $1.5 billion, although the firm says it will not turn over its data. ‘Imagine what a couple might pay to ensure that they get the best out of 10 or 50 possible offspring, optimizing over their choice of heritable attributes,” he wrote on his blog, comparing the cost of a Harvard degree or private school with the few thousand dollars it takes to fertilize and implant embryos.
China is cloning pigs on ‘an industrial scale’
HEATHER SAUL Tuesday 14 January 2014
- China is cloning pigs “on an industrial scale” according to a report highlighting new techniques being used to ‘mass produce’ cloned versions of the animal. The Beijing Genomics Institute produces 500 cloned pigs a year, according to a BBC News report, making it the world’s biggest centre for cloning the animals. It is also the world’s largest centre for gene sequencing of species of animals, particularly those that are “cute” or “taste good”. The BGI has a gene sequencing centre with 156 machines, huge when compared with Europe’s largest sequencing centre, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge which has 30.
- The BGI ‘mass produce’ pigs to test out new medicines and techniques to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s as the animals share a similar genetic structure to humans. Technicians insert fibre-optic probes into the sow’s uterus before implanting early stage embryos pre-prepared in a laboratory. These implantations are carried out twice daily and have a 70 to 80 per cent success rate.
- “We can do cloning on a very large scale,” lead scientist Dr Yutao Du said. “Thirty to fifty people together doing cloning so that we can make a cloning factory here.”
Bioscience Research: China to Overtake U.S. by 2020
By Julian Upton | Published: February 26, 2014
- Bioscience research in China is set to overtake the United States within the next five to ten years, according to data from search engine CiteAb. CiteAb’s founder Dr Andrew Chalmers said that data highlighting the number of academic research papers using antibodies produced by each country “clearly shows that China is the big winner at the moment. The United States has been the most productive nation in bioscience research for a long time, but has seen a gradual decrease in output since 2010.”
- He added: “Conversely, China’s output has been growing enormously since around 2009 and if current trends continue we expect to see China overtake the USA by as soon as 2020. To counter this, the USA will need to increase investment in bioscience research.”
- Bioscience research funding increased in China by 33 per cent a year between 2007 and 2012, whereas the U.S. has seen a decrease of 2 per cent a year. Chalmers added: “We know that China’s most recent five year plan makes research in this sector a priority for the country… The quality is also there — we can see that an increasing number of papers from Chinese researchers are being published by top journals.”
China prepares to grow vegetables on Mars
04 Dec 2012
- Chinese astronauts are preparing to grow fresh vegetables on Mars and the moon after researchers successfully completed a preliminary test in Beijing, state media reported. Four kinds of vegetables were grown in an “ecological life support system”, a 300 cubic metre cabin which will allow astronauts to develop their own stocks of air, water and food while on space missions, Xinhua news agency said Monday.
- Participants in the experiment could “harvest fresh vegetables for meals”, Xinhua quoted Deng Yibing, a researcher at Beijing’s Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Centre, as saying. “Chinese astronauts may get fresh vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extra-terrestrial bases in the future,” the report said, adding that the experiment was the first of its kind in China.
Could China Achieve In Biotech What It Did In Clean-Tech?
10/21/2013 @ 10:00AM
- Globally, the cleantech sector, once believed to be a safe haven from Chinese competition given the country’s low skill work force and wide technology gaps, has come under increasing pressure. Chinese firms have proven their ability to design and implement clean technology projects with surprising speed and agility.
- Just as with its cleantech aspirations, China has announced to the world its intentions of becoming a global hub for biotech.
- Biotech is already an important economic driver in American and European economies. The jobs created in biotech are high paying and knowledge-rich. More importantly, they are current jobs, not ones that might be created in the future. Success in biotech is many times understood to represent a country’s ability to navigate complex development, manufacturing and commercialization challenges in other similar high-technology industries.
- For pharma and device multinationals, the issue is not finding a market like China that is more open and willing to sponsor their creative development and commercialization endeavors. No, their challenge is much simpler and yet much more problematic: the need to identify high growth markets given their slim new drug pipelines, expiring patents, and price pressures faced in their home markets. Consequently, these industry players are more willing to trade market access in China for technology transfer.
- Without question, China will be one of the most important forces shaping the global biotech industry over the next several decades.
How China’s Biggest Biotech Company Cracked The U.S. Market
9/13/2013 @ 1:16AM
- By combining with Complete Genomics, BGI has acquired the know-how to make the machines that process the data and a foothold in the U.S. sequencing service market, enabling it to serve local clients directly. “Buying Compete Genomics enables us to have our own weapons. It is a big machine gun,” Wang added.
- Professor George Church of Harvard University and other analysts estimate BGI’s gene-sequencing capacity at about 10% of the world’s total, making it the global No. 1, and that a combination with Complete Genomics would give BGI a particular edge in sequencing “whole human genomes” (over 95% of the genome). “Complete Genomic is the only large group I know entirely focused on whole human genomes,” Church said.
- Paul Scrivano, a Silicon Valley-based partner at law firm O’Melveny & Myers, who advised BGI in the acquisition, said BGI’s partnership with The Gates Foundation “was a positive factor in the transaction,” and that unlike other controversial Chinese acquisitions in the U.S. made by state-owned companies, BGI stood out for its private ownership. “It’s very clear that BGI is funded by private investors,” Scrivano said.
China Biotech In Review: China Leads Emerging Countries Pharma M&A
December 16, 2012 | includes: JNJ
- Drug companies are increasing their M&A spending in emerging markets, and China is garnering the lion’s share of activity, according to data from Thomson Reuters (see story). All together, including capital from both overseas and domestic drug manufacturers, M&A in emerging countries has totaled $20 billion this year. That’s a jump of 67% over last year. China deals were responsible for one-third of the total: $6.8 billion.
- Sinopharm (China National Pharmaceutical Group) and China Development Bank recently signed a 40 billion RMB ($6.4 billion) agreement that will help Sinopharm – and China’s pharma industry as a whole – develop on several fronts. CDB will supply the investment in a combination of investment, loans, debt, rent and other financial services. With the new capital, Sinopharm will seek to advance its R&D and manufacturing, while it also internationalizes the pharma industry.
- Shanghai Fosun Pharma (SHA: 600196; HK: 2196) and Dalian Wanchun Biotech will establish a JV to develop innovative oncology treatments. Wanchun has in-licensed China rights to plinabulin, a Class 1.1 innovative anti-tumor drug from Nereus Pharma of the US. Through the JV, Fosun will build Wanchun’s development ability and add potential drugs to its pipeline. Wanchun will serve as an innovative drug incubator for Fosun.
- The Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Science, will collaborate with MRC Technology, a UK-based technology transfer and early development institute. SIBCB will contribute potential new drug targets, on which MRC will build IP and conduct early-stage research. MRC describes itself as a liaison between university-level researchers and pharmas that are looking for lead drug candidates.
- Jiangxi Boya Bio-Pharmaceutical (SHA: 300294) will pay up to $18.5 million to purchase a 68% stake in Zhejiang Haikang Biologicals. Both companies are involved in blood products and plasma collection. The deal was structured to include earn-out provisions over the next three years and will allow Boya to increase its ownership of Haikang if specific conditions are met. Boya bought the 68% stake from a third party.
China Biotech In Review: Unnamed China Pharma Buys Bayer’s Vacated Bay-Area Campus
December 30, 2012 | includes: BAYRY.PK
- A major, though as-yet unnamed, China biopharma has bought the prestigious San Francisco-area biotech campus that formerly belonged to Bayer (BAYRY.PK) (see story).
- HitGen Ltd. and Viva Biotech Ltd., two China CROs specializing in early-stage services, announced a new collaboration. HitGen, located in Chengdu, offers lead generation services. Viva Biotech of Shanghai is a structure-based drug discovery CRO.
- HitGen Ltd. and Viva Biotech Ltd., two China CROs specializing in early-stage services, announced a new collaboration. HitGen, located in Chengdu, offers lead generation services. Viva Biotech of Shanghai is a structure-based drug discovery CRO. According to the two companies, their now-integrated early hit-to lead generation program addresses a previously unmet need in China’s pre-clinical drug discovery sector.
First Genome Sequence of Chinese Plum Provides Important Resource for Fruit Improvement
Dec. 27, 2012
- A Chinese research team, led by Beijing Forestry University, BGI, Beijing Lin Fu Ke Yuan Flowers Co., Ltd, and other institutes, has completed the first genomic sequence of Prunus mume, known as mei. This work is extremely important for the deeper understanding of Rosaceae evolution and provides an invaluable resource for the improvement of fruit trees. The latest study was published online December 27 in Nature Communication.
- As one of the longest-lived flowering fruit trees, the P. mume was domesticated in China more than 3,000 years ago. It belongs to Rosaceae, the third most economically important plant family in temperate regions, and is characterized by high nutrition, medical value, and tolerance to low temperature in winter. Writers and artists have extolled the beauty of its flowers, and the blossom is considered to be the symbol of Chinese national spirit. The availability of P. mume genome will open a new way for better decoding the mysteries of this fascinating tree.
- The plantation technique that makes P. mume so diverse–the artificial grafting–also makes their genomes difficult to assemble. In this study, researchers sequenced the genome of P. mume, a wild species from Tibet in China, using a robust approach integrated with next-generation sequencing (NGS) and whole-genome mapping (WGM) technologies. Then they constructed a high-density genetic map by applying restriction-site-associated DNA (RAD) marker strategy that further improves the quality of the genomic reference. Through all the efforts, researchers yielded the ~237Mb P. mume reference genome.