CRISPR Wins the Nobel Chemistry Prize!

Hello Pynksters :wave:

This one’s for all you science nerds out there :nerd_face:

This year’s Nobel prize was announced for chemistry this week. It was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who are the first two women to share the prize, which honours their work on the technology of genome editing.

Team Pynk salutes these two incredible pioneers, your contribution primarily to science but also to future generations of young women entering the sciences is one that will not be forgotten for a long time!

CRISPR is a gene-editing technology scientists can use to more rapidly and precisely ‘cut and paste’ genes into DNA. It is based on a targeted DNA-destroying defence system originally found in certain prokaryotes (a single cell organism that lacks an enveloped nucleus) and if you know what any of that meant then you’re doing better than I am :joy:

Looking at the graph below we can see a diagram of which schools of Chemistry have won the Nobel prize most frequently, as you will see there is a clear winner in the organic and biochemistry fields.

So to bring the subject back closer to our own hearts here at Pynk community…

Clearly, the ability to alter DNA has a multitude of incredible facets, including preventing and curing inherited disease, modifying crops for poorer nations and to create more robust crop breeds, the list literally goes on forever.

What do you think are the lessons to be learned here, in terms of investment opportunities? and How can we use this information to make better investment decisions?

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Crispr Therapeutics AG (CRSPR) listed since 17/10/2016. Mkt cap $6.9bn. Revenue from 0 in 2016 to almost $300m in 2019 with $67m net income. I think it can easily 10X in the next few years.

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I see a lot of health-based organisations listed on the NYSC, FTSE, etc. employing this cutting-edge tech which is going to bring about an increase in more investment opportunities. Those who get in early of course stand to benefit more.

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I sit on the board of a cancer charity and as such, I see lots of trials for new treatments for specific cancers. I definitely don’t know as much as I’d like about Crispr technology so thank you Al for posting this. I’m looking forward to learning from all your insights.

But I can add some practical real life insights regarding its application in the field of cancer treatment: There was huge excitement a few years back that thus technology was finally the way we beat cancer with trials set up to test the application of crispR gene editing to specific cancers. Unfortunately most failed to show benefit and what’s worse the side effects were truly horrendous and life threatening for some.

However, there was incredible success in the subset of blood cancers and this technology I hope and believe looks likely to eliminate that whole cancer area in the years to come.

In terms of other cancers, it’s a work in progress whether they can adapt it to make it more effective for solid tumours and whether they can mitigate against the unacceptably dangerous side effect Profile. So the jury is still out in terms of it being a panacea for all cancers.

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Although Jennifer Doudna works her research at UC Berkeley, let’s consider that it’s quite common for research projects to have co-sponsors, many of them private. So, in relation to:

Blockquote What do you think are the lessons to be learned here, in terms of investment opportunities? and How can we use this information to make better investment decisions?

It would be important to keep track of which companies in the private sector are actually contributing to all these successful research, as they will be first in line to make use of it and will most certainly have the expertise on their side to put into action newly acquired knowledge in their fields.

This article is a few years old, but I think the core argument remains valid today:

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Yes, biotechnology and DNA are things that there will be a lot of development on in the next few years, so these companies should have good profits, as long as they have good management.

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‘Human Nature’ documentary debates the moral and ethical issues around this technology, def worth a watch. No matter which side of the fence you are on this one, demand will be so strong for this technology as to make it an inevitability and the point in time whereby human evolution is catapulted into a whole new trajectory. As evidenced in the Netflix doc (Unnatural Selection) bio hackers are the earliest of adopters, are already experimenting and validate that demand. It’s just a question of how we go about it. Early investors stand to see massive upside. Now we just need map the genes that make Pynksters better at investing:)

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Many elements of science are debatable as to ethics. There are so many unknowns. Emphasis is currently on developing a vaccine for CoVid, of course. Gene therapy is a huge area of interest. CBDs role in healthcare can’t be ignored. Cancer treatment continues to be a work in progress. Plant based ‘anything’ will be a big part of our future.

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I think the general public are getting more accustomed to technology like this, especially when they see that the benefits offered usually outweigh the risks many of which are unfounded and purely fear mongering.

Mosigman had it right with research projects, look for the companies sponsoring the research as they will be the first ones to likely implement the findings of the research.

There are also cases of the researchers themselves going on to setup businesses around the findings of their research, this has happened with solar cells, so that can be another thing to look out for. Potential disruptive startups adopting and using new technologies to gain an advantage.

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Indeed, this technological breakthrough can potentially be more popular in the years to come in various fields including medical and agricultural research sectors.

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Honestly, I have less knowledge on the subject but I am guessing from the responses that it’s an interesting one​:joy:. Congratulations to the winners :tada::confetti_ball::tada::confetti_ball:

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For me, the key point is about the increasing digitisation of biology. Physics, chemistry are now both digital (capable of experimentation and simulation in digital not analogue) and once experimental data proves an outcome also subject to engineering (high volume/mass production of output).

Biology is still analogue and artisanal in much of the R&D experimentation. Go into any Noble prize winner’s lab in Biology and you will see physical notebooks, hand held pipettes and a few expensive assay machines working at just 5% capacity.
Experimental results are not replicable; dual factor analysis (not multi factor) is the norm; and data pools are siloed. DNA is analysed in vivo and in vitro.

So CRISPR - a tool for slicing DNA in a predictable and repeatable manner, supplemented now by software - is the first step on end to end digitisation. The end goal must be that experimental data valuable by being both repeatable and no longer siloed. And then over time to move from in vivo/in vitro to in silico…

Look at Benchling for what the future might look like. [Disclaimer I have worked for a Benchling competitor but have no financial interest in Benchling itself].

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Thanks for your post @Bitterend and welcome to Pynk community. It seems that Biology is not so different to most any other business in the respect that it needs to evolve into digital. I think the pandemic has proven that to many, certainly.in the traditionally office based roles.

Why do you think so much of biology remains ‘analogue’ as you put it? Lack of funding? Unwillingness to embrace new tech?

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Welcome to Pynk community @Bitterend. You raise some very interesting points for us to consider. Please share your thoughts on some of the other topics as well. Great to have you here.

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Biology is analogue for multiple reasons.
(1) Complexity of living things. DNA and proteins (and most of the organisms replicating those) live and multiply in liquids. To experiment, you must mix precise quantities in microunits, dilute, incubate for a time, then test. And that complex workflow - mix, dilute, incubate, assay - for a single run of a multiple run experiment occupies days not minutes, multiple steps not just a few, multiple machines not just one… Speak to any postdoc working in biochemistry and they will tell you of the countless experiments that just didn’t work.
(2) Researchers are humans. So each learnt to do things a specific way that works for them. This is the artisanal element. Using a manual pipette speedily and accurately requires high skill that comes with many hours of practice. And postdoc X may have a different approach to postdoc Y.
(3) Academic research has humans as a sunk cost. So time spent by humans is worth nothing, versus an incremental cost of buying and using robots to replace/automate. So …academic researchers have fewer machines.
(4) State of the art automation is poor. The different lab kit manufacturers are highly fragmented across multiple areas, each with their own (rather poor) interface. Think…early days of servers. Wang, Sun, IBM all competed with the best hardware, not the software. Then came virtualisation, then came cloud and …who cares what the hardware is? Even very large companies like Dannaher and ThermoFisher still emphasise the hardware and each machine needs programming separately rather than an open software.
(5) Taxonomy or language. Skilled researchers argue amongst themselves about classification, terminology etc. So capturing that in a common language that can then inform a general workflow or operating system across both the wet domain of human interactions in biology and the data domain of machines… well that’s tough.

Put that altogether and biology, particularly at the R end of R&D, is the science that is farther from an engineering discipline. And therefore - the prize is the greatest. This is why biotech SaaS is attracting moon shot type investment from family funds set up by entrepeneur billionaires. Take biology digital and you may unleash Prometheus. So. How much would you be willing to invest, now, for a very high risk binary option (99.99% fail, 0.01% succeed) slice of that pie in the future?

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Hi @Bitterend thank you very much for your contribute to the discussion here and welcome to the forum.

Speaking about DNA some time ago I came across an Italian blockchain startup called Genesy. They plan to sequence peoples DNA, store your data on their blockchain so that the person by owning his DNA data can decide what kind of his data he can share with pharma companies and be rewarded with the company’s token for this.

“Pretty interesting project” i thought that time but than I didn’t followed anymore their storyline…I guess it is time to do it.

Edit: another one blockchain project doing more or less the same thing I guess is called genomes.io .
I am digging into this and it seems the DNA research is very much related to blockchain for the way it will develop itself and go into public domain.

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Hi @Bitterend and welcome to the community!

I have to admit, I know little about the state of digitalisation in areas such as biology, chemistry, and food engineering (except for animal-protein-free products which are gaining increasingly more shelf space). Your insights are helping me get a better picture of a number of industries. It’s like gaining exposure to a completely new universe, particularly when compared to obvious culprits such as semiconductors, social media giants, and e-commerce companies.

Here at Pynk, we put great emphasis on sharing knowledge and helping each other grow, which is our key differentiator from the competition. Could you shed some light on industries/companies from the healthcare sector you are particularly excited about and why?

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