Over the past year, the biotechnology community has become absorbed with the idea of editing genes to eradicate hereditary diseases and cure various forms of cancer.
Our nations’ finest universities developed a new gene-editing system called CRISPR that made this possible.
With great power though, comes great risk. Many scientists have called for heavy regulations in this area. What if a serious genetic mutation gets released into the human population unknowingly? Or worse, what if experiments on live human embryos end up killing them?
These are legitimate concerns. That’s why the biotechnology community was outraged earlier this year when Chinese scientists decided to perform gene-editing experiments on live human embryos. Mind you, these embryos were already terminal. But it crossed a line that many felt the community should stay behind. At least until it can create new safety measures.
One company that hopes to create such measures is a Canadian startup called Deep Genomics. The company feels it can provide a safe alternative to live genetic-editing. How? By using artificial intelligence to predict the results.
Sound crazy? Well, it’s certainly innovative. Doing this means running the characteristics of each gene through a computer. Then, crunching billions of data points to forecast the outcome.
Essentially, this means testing the DNA in question through a virtual simulation of the real thing! If the algorithym shows little risk, then tools like CRISPR could be used on live DNA with a greater likelihood of success.
Deep Genomics’ founder, Brendan Frey – who is the head of the Probabilistic and Statistical Inference Group at the University of Toronto – says: “We can use our system to determine the efficacy of therapies. Whether it’s a drug, or a CRISPR gene editing system – whatever it is, our technology allows us to predict the effects of those modifications.”
The company enters at a time when new initiatives are being developed to offer patients customized diagnosis and treatment options based on their own DNA.
A system like Deep Genomics’ will allow doctors to understand the potential outcomes and side effects of medicine on a patient, before it’s even prescribed!
Hold on to your seats for the rest of 2015 as we continue to see technology roll out that was previously only dreamed about in movies!
Editor, BioTech Intel Trader