27.05.2016 - The Finnish Technology Academy has awarded US-American innovator Frances Arnold the 2016 Millennium Technology Prize, worth €1m. Arnold is a pioneer in the field of directed evolution.
Frances Arnold took the elegant concept of natural evolution and put it to work in protein engineering. For her pioneering work, the US-American bioengineer has received the 7th Millennium Technology Prize, which is worth €1m. She was honoured for her groundbreaking work in directed evolution, a method used in protein engineering that mimics the process of natural selection to evolve proteins with certain useful properties.
Arnold’s method generates random mutations in the DNA – just as it happens in nature. The modified genes produce proteins with new properties, from which the researcher can choose the useful ones, repeating the process until the level of performance needed by industry is achieved. “The most beautiful, complex, and functional objects on the planet have been made by evolution,” said Arnold. “We can now use evolution to make things that no human knows how to design. Evolution is the most powerful engineering method in the world, and we should make use of it to find new biological solutions to problems.”
Arnold’s innovations have revolutionised the slow and costly process of protein modification. Today her methods are being used in hundreds of laboratories and companies around the world. Modified proteins are used to replace processes that are expensive or that utilise fossil raw materials in the production of fuels, paper products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and agricultural chemicals. “Directed evolution can be used in industries that utilize biotechnology, because biochemical reactions are based on enzymes,” cites professor Jarl-Thure Eriksson, Chair of the International Selection Committee.
The Millennium Technology Prize is handed out every other year and aims to promote sustainable development and a better quality of life.
26.05.2016 BigDNA relaunches as Iceni Pharmaceuticals with the aim to develop repurposed and reformulated cancer therapies. First order of business: repurpose Merck Serono’s cilengitide as a multiple myeloma treatment.
24.05.2016 One of the pioneering companies developing pharmaceuticals and diagnostics based on the gut microbiome, Enterome Bioscience, has raised €14.5m in a Series C financing round. Among the investors were Seventure and Lundbeckfond as well as Nestlé.
20.05.2016 The long awaited global review on antimicrobial resistance by economist Lord Jim O’Neill has been published. It sets out an action plan to defeat superbugs with a huge awareness campaign and rapid diagnostics to be used before antibiotics are prescribed.
18.05.2016 Bayer is deepening its involvement in CRISPR with a licensing agreement for genome editing patents. Irish partner ERS Genomics holds the rights to the CRISPR/Cas9 tech from Emmanuelle Charpentier, one of the inventors.
11.05.2016 Newly spun out company OxStem has raised £16.9m (€21.5m) to develop regenerative meds for the treatment of age-related disease. It is the largest financing for an Oxford spin-out – or any UK academic spin-out – to date.
09.05.2016 Swiss Genentech partner AC Immune has raised CHF42.7m (€38.6m) in order to advance its therapeutic and diagnostic product pipeline in Alzheimer’s disease. The news follows a recently announced R&D collaboration with Biogen.
04.05.2016 Barcelona-based epigenetics expert Oryzon Genomics has closed a debt funding round of €10.5m, bringing the total money raised since last year to €27m. The funds will serve to advance the company’s two LSD1 inhibitors in cancer and neurodegeneration.
03.05.2016 Ipsen is strengthening its ties to long-time development partner Oncodesign, a Dijon-based cancer treatment biotech. The French pharma is handing over the pre-clinical pharmacology for its oncology research programmes to Oncodesign.