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2021 Breakthroughs in the Biotech Industry

Once again, it’s that time of year! With the year 2021 behind us, we’re taking a look back at the Biotech advancements that impacted the year and will likely have a long-term impact. The news was dominated by Covid-19, but science could not stand still. Take, for example, gene editing. CRISPR evolved at breakneck speed, resulting in a big toolkit full of powerful gene editors that are significantly more efficient, dependable, and safe than their predecessors.

CRISPRoff, for example, uses epigenetic processes to switch genes on and off in a reversible manner without actually snipping or altering the gene. Prime editing, a type of DNA editing that simply snips rather than completely cuts DNA, has been upgraded to allow for precise editing of up to 10,000 DNA letters in a variety of cells. Entire genes can be modified with twin prime editing. With these enhanced CRISPR technologies, hitherto untreatable genetic abnormalities can now be addressed.

Yet, when it comes to gene editing, we’ve just scratched the surface. When scientists looked into the CRISPR family tree, they discovered a large universe of other CRISPR-like systems to investigate further. AI is now assisting in the discovery of new CRISPR proteins, as well as their kill switch. Other concepts abandoned CRISPR entirely, instead relying on a strong bacterial mechanism to modify millions of DNA sequences without breaking a single strand of DNA. Without a doubt, the gene editing toolkit will continue to grow.

In other news, quantum mechanics and neurology have teamed up to speed up AI. In a neat full circle, AI is now creating its own hardware processors at Google. AI-powered brain implants were able to battle depression in a spectacular proof-of-concept, with continued work to heal chronic pain and translate the brain’s electrical signals from thought to text.

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