The Scoop: 10 Technologies Driving Innovation

GENetic Engineering & Biotechnology News Introduces the Scoop

These 10 technologies, listed in order of importance, are so “hot” they’re incandescent, illuminating new directions in basic research, therapeutics development, and bioproduction. The technologies that give off the most heat stimulate the most innovative products and services, firing up minds, laboratories, and production lines. Also listed are companies and major academic centers that either manufacture and market or carry out research for the listed technology.

1 Cancer Immunotherapy Techniques

Source: QuBiologics

Cell signaling pathways are being disentangled, allowing you to see how they may be engineered into circuits for amplifying or dampening immune responses, boosting anticancer responses, or attenuating autoimmune disease. Technologies to follow include monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors, cancer vaccines, and cell-based therapies.


2 CRISPR/Genome Editing

Source: Stigg Driver / iStock

Once it was just a bacterial immune system. But now it’s working for us, selectively knocking out genes or inserting bits of synthetic DNA into nonbacterial genomes, including the human genome. Lately, CRISPR has been editing RNA, swapping out individual DNA bases, and resolving genomic defects in embryos. What’s next? Keep an eye on CRISPR systems modified to induce epigenetic changes. (No risky double-strand breaks!) This development will ready CRISPR for therapeutic applications.


3 3D Cell Culture

Source: Michael Cohea / Brown University

More natural, more physiologically relevant than 2D cell cultures, 3D cell cultures promise to expedite drug development. Be on the lookout for organoids and other 3D assay formats that not only  recapitulate in vivo conditions, but also facilitate high-throughput screening.


4 Liquid Biopsies

Source: QuBiologics

Liquid biopsies, which represent a less invasive and more cost-effective approach to cancer diagnosis, eschew tissue samples. Instead, they rely on blood, urine, or cerebrospinal fluid, where they assess biomarkers such as cell-free DNA and circulating tumor cells. Look for real-time liquid biopsies to support evaluations of treatment efficacy, which could expedite life-saving treatment changes in individual patients.


5 Tissue Engineering

Source: University of Minnesota

Regenerative medicine aims to stock a parts shop for the body. Some inventory consists of cell-seeded scaffolds, and some is built up, layer by layer, by 3D bioprinters. Increasingly complex parts are being created, from bone-like material and engineered cartilage to artificial bladders and organs.


6 Single-Cell Analysis

Source: cgtoolbox / Getty Images

For too long have researchers missed patterns that “averaged out” because analyses genomic,  transcriptomic, proteomic, or metabolomic relied on data pertaining to populations of cells, not individual cells. Now, however, single-cell techniques such as microfluidics and single-cell RNA sequencing are being used, revealing cellular heterogeneity in microbial populations, complex tissues, and tumors.


7 Nanopore Sequencing

Source: Oxford Nanopore

Just when we were getting accustomed to hearing about next-generation sequencing, we started hearing about technologies that could be called next-next-generation sequencing. One such technology is nanopore sequencing, which “threads the needle”—using DNA or RNA as the thread—to determine base sequences without the need for chemical labeling of the sample or amplification of sample molecules by PCR. Developers are already tailoring sensor arrays for diverse applications.


8 Nanoparticle Drug Delivery

Source: NIH

Specially designed nanocarriers can deliver drugs where needed—and only where needed, lessening the harmful side-effects caused, for example, by chemotherapeutic agents. With emerging nanoparticle engineering techniques, drug carriers may cross the blood-brain barrier or respond dynamically to laser stimulation or magnetic fields.


9 Structure-Based Drug Design

Source: SwitDEN / Getty Images

In drug design, where it is necessary to navigate the convoluted world of biomolecular interactions, a straightforward course—one based on the modeling of binding pockets—is often the best course. Biomolecular mapping is no longer limited to X-ray crystallography or NMR spectroscopy. Instead, cryoelectron microscopy and computer modeling are being combined to explore new pharmacological frontiers.


10 Continuous Bioprocessing

Source: Sartorius Stedim Biotech

Some portions of biomanufacturing chain already link together, but gaps remain. We’re all pulling for end-to-end solutions, so don’t be left holding loose ends. Tie together the latest developments in quality-by-design and process analytical technology.



For a listing of the top companies working in each of these technological fields, please go to: