Tag Archives: Biotechnology


Will Europe toast GM wheat for gluten sufferers?

Soon, individuals with celiac disease in southern Spain will begin receiving regular allotments of bread. Rather than misguided charity, this will be a clinical trial of a new type of dough made from genetically modified (GM) wheat. The wheat has been altered to be low in gliadins—the portion of gluten proteins that are toxic to people with celiac disease. If successful, the trial could bolster growing research efforts to engineer wheat to be compatible with the immune systems of the ~1% of the global population with celiac disease and the much larger number of people with gluten allergies.

Low-gluten wheat could also open a new front in the battle for GM food acceptability in Europe. If Europeans are ever going to accept a GM food, celiac-safe wheat may be a good candidate. European consumers accounted for over euro1.1 ($1.21) billion of nearly euro1.9 billion worldwide gluten-free food market, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Global gluten-free bakery sales are expected to grow at >7% annually, the firm predicts. But because this and other efforts to modify wheat involve inserting genetic elements to silence genes, they are subject to a European regulatory process closely tied to anti-GM politics. And even if such legal barriers to marketing are overcome, marketing such a wheat would require not just farmers, but millers, bakers and consumers to be persuaded that it is worthwhile.

Read the rest of this feature in Nature Biotechnology: [html] [pdf].
También publicado en Scientific American en Español: [html] [pdf].


¿Celebrará Europa la llegada del trigo transgénico para quienes no toleran el gluten?

Pronto, los celíacos en el sur de España comenzarán a recibir cuotas regulares de pan. Lejos de ser una caridad desacertada, se trata de un ensayo clínico de un nuevo tipo de masa hecha de trigo genéticamente modificado (GM). El trigo ha sido alterado para ser bajo en gliadinas –la porción de las proteínas del gluten que son tóxicas para las personas con enfermedad celíaca–. Si tiene éxito, el ensayo reforzará los crecientes esfuerzos de investigación para crear trigo que sea compatible con el sistema inmune del ~1% de la población mundial que padece la enfermedad celíaca y una cantidad mucho mayor de personas con alergia al gluten.

El trigo bajo en gluten también podría abrir un nuevo frente en la batalla por la aceptación de alimentos GM en Europa. Si los europeos van a llegar a aceptar alguna vez un alimento GM, el trigo apto para celíacos sería un buen candidato. Los consumidores europeos representaron más de €1,1 mil millones ($1,21) de los casi €1,9 mil millones que suma el mercado mundial de alimentos sin gluten, de acuerdo con la firma de investigación de mercado Euromonitor International. Según las predicciones de esta organización, se espera que las ventas mundiales de panificados sin gluten crezcan más de 7% por año. Pero debido a que este y otros esfuerzos para modificar el trigo implican insertar elementos genéticos para silenciar genes, están sujetos a un proceso de regulación europeo estrechamente ligado a la política anti-GM. E incluso si se superan estas barreras legales para la venta, la comercialización de un trigo de este tipo requeriría no solo convencer a los agricultores de que vale la pena, si no también a los molineros, los panaderos y los consumidores. Continue reading

IBM debuts hyped ‘cognitive cloud’ biotech HQ in Cambridge

In September IBM announced deals with Teva Pharma and Sage Bionetworks to use its Watson Health Cloud platform for a range of services, from selecting molecules for drug development to planning clinical trials and advising clinicians. A couple of weeks later, Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, revealed a partnership between its Azure cloud computing platform and the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Genomics Institute for data storage and analysis to support its work on genomics research. Information technology firms large and small are expanding their ecosystem of cloud computing facilities and services, hoping to attract players in industry and academia. Cloud systems can ferry, store and combine clinical, research, social and health data. Companies are attracted to these services because they allow them to keep up with the constantly growing pool of information without having to invest in their own information technology infrastructure.

Read the rest of this news story in the December 2015 issue of Nature Biotechnology: [html].

DARPA redesign

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) opened a new office in April uniting its biology, and related engineering and computer science research. The Biological Technologies Office (BTO), directed by neurologist and retired Army colonel Geoffrey Ling, inherited 23 existing research programs and on April 24 launched its first new one, involving prosthetics. Other areas of research include diagnostics for infectious diseases, synthetic biology, biological clocks, systems biology and a program to establish the lineage of genetic modifications to living organisms. The office’s 2015 budget is around $250 million. Continue reading