Biotechnology/StemCell/Genetic Modification Part 3

New synthetic molecule can kill five types of deadly drug-resistant superbugs

Mar 06, 2018

  • An international research team led by the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and IBM Research developed a synthetic molecule that can kill five deadly types of multidrug-resistant bacteria with limited, if any, side effects. Their new material could be developed into an antimicrobial drug to treat patients with antibiotic-resistant infections. This finding was reported in the scientific journal Nature Communications (“A Macromolecular Approach to Eradicate Multidrug Resistant Bacterial Infections While Mitigating Drug Resistance Onset”). To address this problem, Dr Yi Yan Yang from IBN brought together a multidisciplinary research team from the US, China and Singapore to develop a new class of antimicrobial polymers called guanidinium-functionalized polycarbonates with a unique killing mechanism that can target a broad range of multidrug-resistant bacteria. It is biodegradable and non-toxic to human cells.

Chinese scientists find gene that increases corn yields


  • Chinese scientists have found a gene that can help grow bigger grains of corn to raise yields. The gene, named urb2, is crucial in the growth of grains, according to the research by Henan Agricultural University and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The result of the research can help increase corn yields and lay a foundation for related studies in breeding, said Tang Jihua, head of the research team.

Chinese scientists become world’s first to regenerate human lung tissue

February 09, 2018

  • Chinese scientists take the world’s lead in making regeneration of human lung tissues come true by orthotopic transplantation of tissue-specific stem/progenitor cells, China News reported on Feb. 8. The research by Professor Zuo Wei’s team at Tongji University School of Medicine has been recently published in the science journal Protein & Cell. The team’s work showed that functional adult human lung structures can be reconstituted by the method, which could become a mature regenerative therapeutic strategy in the near future, according to Tongji University.

Biotech boom sees Chinese pharmaceutical sector soar


  • A picture of two scrawny monkeys huddled together in an incubator was all it took to confirm China’s status as a major presence in the field of advanced healthcare research. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua made headlines worldwide last week, becoming the first successfully cloned pair of primates to be created artificially in a lab. Growing prowess in R&D, a rapidly developing healthcare market, and bullish investors have seen shares in Chinese biotech firms become highly sought after.

Chinese firm clones gene-edited dog in bid to treat cardiovascular disease

December 27, 2017

  • Sinogene have successfully cloned two more puppies in this manner, meaning the company now has four genetically identical puppies — Apple, Longlong and two new canines, Xixi and Nuonuo. “Dogs share the most inheritable diseases with human beings, which makes them the best disease models to study,” says Feng Chong, technical director at Sinogene.

China to power WuXi NextCODE, the Google of human genome data

30 November, 2017

  • WuXi NextCODE (WXNC), a genomic data pioneer based in Shanghai, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Reykjavik, is leading the charge in helping pharmaceutical companies and others in health care unravel the promise of the human genome, first mapped and identified in 2003. The company, acquired by Shanghai and US-based WuXi AppTec in 2015 and merged with AppTec’s Genome Centre in Shanghai, uses a proprietary platform to cut the “diagnostic odyssey” for someone with a rare disease to a matter of hours.

Brilliant minds harness a billion genomes to power China’s new biotech and healthcare industries


  • As leader of the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), Dr Jun Wang led a Chinese team that sequenced the first genome of an Asian person, the first giant panda and the microbiome of the human gut. He is a pioneer in a nation not yet associated with trailblazing science, and part of a cohort of brilliant scientists who are responsible for China’s emergence as a world-class R&D innovator. Two years ago, Wang quit BGI to lead his most ambitious project yet: iCarbonX, a biotech start-up that aims to revolutionize global healthcare: “We are trying to use modeling, artificial intelligence, to create a digital me,” says Wang. “Eventually we are going to deliver that back as personalized healthcare solutions.”

Playing God: “We are in the midst of a genetic revolution”

Nov 8, 2017

  • Dr. Lai Liangxue is one of China’s leading CRISPR researchers. “So far I’ve used CRISPR on dogs, pigs, rabbit, and mice. The most exciting thing is if I want to make something in animals in biomedicine, now I can achieve very easily. Before, if I want to do that, maybe it will take me several years and millions of U.S. dollars to just achieve one genetically modified animal. Now, very fast and very inexpensive.” CRISPR is so precise that it can just knock out the one gene that changes the physical appearance of an animal. Researchers at Lai’s lab in Guangzhou, China, used CRISPR to isolate and manipulate a beagle’s myostatin, or muscle gene, making these the most muscular beagles in the world. I jokingly contemplated enhancing my own muscles with gene editing, and the rabbit-hole of this technology reveals itself. It’s tempting.

China Doubles Down on the Double Helix

Nov 2 2017

  • The Chinese government plans to pour 60 billion yuan ($9 billion) into a national precision medicine initiative before 2030. That’s a lot of money: a similar effort in the United States was launched in 2015 with $215 million in funding. As part of research into precision medicine techniques, millions of people’s genomes will be sequenced in China in the next few years, says Michael Chou, co-founder of PGP China and a lecturer in Harvard’s genetics department. In 2016, the state-owned Yang Zi Investment Group built a sequencing center in Nanjing that’s capable of sequencing the genomes of 400,000 to 500,000 people a year. That would be roughly equal to the total number of people who had ever been sequenced as of last January, according to Illumina, the leading maker of sequencing machines.

‘Incredible’ editing of life’s building blocks

25 October 2017

  • Scientists have demonstrated an “incredibly powerful” ability to manipulate the building blocks of life in two separate studies. One altered the order of atoms in DNA to rewrite the human genetic code and the instructions for life. The other edited RNA, which is a chemical cousin of DNA and unlocks the information in the genetic code. Prof David Liu of the Broad Institute said: “We are hard at work trying to translate base editing technology into human therapeutics.” Feng Zhang – also of the Broad Institute – said: “The ability to correct disease-causing mutations is one of the primary goals of genome editing.

CRISPR Bacon: Chinese Scientists Create Genetically Modified Low-Fat Pigs

October 23, 2017

  • In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report that they have created 12 healthy pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs. The scientists created low-fat pigs in the hopes of providing pig farmers with animals that would be less expensive to raise and would suffer less in cold weather. “This is a big issue for the pig industry,” says Jianguo Zhao of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who led the research. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Chinese scientists put rice grown in seawater on the nation’s tables

16 October, 2017

  • Rice grown on a commercial scale in diluted seawater has, for the first time, made it into the rice bowls of ordinary Chinese people after a breakthrough in food production following more than four decades of efforts by farmers, researchers, government agencies and businesses. Ning Meng bought a bag of the rice online and had it delivered to the family of her boyfriend early this month. Her boyfriend was living with his parents in a city in Zhejiang province, and the rice was a gift to her future in-laws.

Chinese scientists fix genetic disorder in cloned human embryos

02 October 2017

  • A team in China has taken a new approach to fixing disease genes in human embryos. The researchers created cloned embryos with a genetic mutation for a potentially fatal blood disorder, and then precisely corrected the DNA to show how the condition might be prevented at the earliest stages of development. The report, published on 23 September in Protein & Cell1, is the latest in a series of experiments to edit genes in human embryos. And it employs an impressive series of innovations, scientists say. Rather than replacing entire sections of genes, the team, led by Junjiu Huang at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, tweaked individual DNA letters, or bases, using a precision gene-editing technology developed in the United States2.

Chinese cancer-drug maker BeiGene in US$1.4 billion tie-up with biotech giant Celgene

28 September, 2017

  • BeiGene, a Chinese maker of cancer medicines, has closed a US$1.39 billion deal with the American biotechnology giant Celgene, marking the biggest overseas licensing to date of drugs developed in China. The deal will bankroll BeiGene’s clinical trials for treating the four most common tumours in China – lung, stomach, liver and eosophageal cancers – said Wang Xiaodong, co-founder and chairman of the company’s scientific advisory board. Under the agreement, BeiGene will receive an aggregate of US$413 million from Celgene in upfront licensing fees and equity investment, with an additional US$980 million in future regulatory and sales proceeds.

New ‘Chemical Surgery’ Technique Repairs Mutations In Human Embryos

Sep 29, 2017

  • For the first time, a research team from China used a new technique to fix a blood disorder in human embryos. The scientists performed “chemical surgery” — a procedure that rewrites errors in genetic code instead of snapping and replacing strands of faulty DNA, which is the central strategy employed by the CRISPR gene editing system. The early results look promising, but this technology is still a long way from prime time. A team of researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in China are now the first to use Liu’s invention on an actual human embryo, though the modified embryo was not implanted into a surrogate. As described in the science journal Protein and Cell, the technique was used to correct beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that affects one in 100,000 births. This is the same team, by the way, that was the first to use CRISPR on human embryos, though that pioneering attempt to fix abnormal beta-thalassemia genes was met with limited success. By turning to chemical surgery, a technique otherwise known as “base editing,” the researchers were hoping to get superior results.

Made-to-Order Medicine: China, U.S. Race to Decode Your Genes

Sept. 20, 2017

  • China’s President Xi Jinping has made such scientific innovation a centerpiece of his national goals. In this case, scientists at state-run Sichuan University in Chengdu are part of a nationwide plan to decode the genetic makeup of at least one million citizens. The multibillion-dollar program is designed to catapult China to the forefront of a field now dominated by the West.

Sight in Chinese man’s eye restored after pig cornea transplant

18 August, 2017

  • A visually impaired man from southern China has had the sight in one eye returned to near normal after he received a cornea transplant from a pig, according to a newspaper report. The surgery was carried out on the 27-year-old at a hospital linked to the Central South University in Changsha in Hunan province, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. The man had a condition which caused chronic inflammation in one eye and he had difficulty in even seeing his own hands, according to the article. Similar cornea transplants have been carried out fewer than 10 times in hospitals in Beijing, Wuhan and Hunan provinces, but the success rate is over 90 per cent.

China-born clones bring pig organs closer for human transplants


  • Scientists have cloned genetically modified piglets that may prove a safe source of organs for transplants into humans. The 15 black-headed piglets, born in a lab in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, do not carry the active infectious viral gene which has impeded the process of pig-to-human transplantation for more than a decade, said Chinese members of an international research team who released their findings Friday. Pigs have porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) embedded in their genome. These viruses are able to jump from a pig cell to a human when mixed in the lab. The viruses can then be passed to fresh human cells from the infected one.