Tuesday, August 18, 2009


AnaSpec Inc. is a biotechnology company headquartered in San Jose, California. Located in the Silicon Valley, it is a provider of custom and catalog research peptides, antibodies, dyes, assay kits, and synthesis reagents. AnaSpec focuses on three main technologies: peptides, detection reagents (including dyes and antibodies), and combinatorial chemistry.


AnaSpec acquired HiLyte Biosciences, a manufacturer of fluorescent dyes, in 2003.

In 2008 AnaSpec established a new dedicated GMP manufacturing facility.

In 2009 AnaSpec launched its new facilities in Fremont, CA.

Genetic use restriction technology

Genetic use restriction technology (GURT), colloquially known as terminator technology, is the name given to proposed methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile. The technology was developed under a cooperative research and development agreement between the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA and Delta and Pine Land company in the 1990s, but it is not yet commercially available. Because some stakeholders expressed concerns that this technology might lead to dependence for poor smallholder farmers, Monsanto Company, an agricultural products company and the world's biggest seed supplier, pledged not to commercialize the technology in 1999. Late in 2006, it acquired Delta and Pine Land company.

The technology was discussed during the 8th Conference of the Parties to the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31, 2006.


There are conceptually two types of GURT:

1. V-GURT: This type of GURT produces sterile seeds meaning that a farmer that had purchased seeds containing v-GURT technology could not save the seed from this crop for future planting. This would not have an immediate impact on the large number of primarily western farmers who use hybrid seeds, as they do not produce their own planting seeds, and instead buy specialized hybrid seeds from seed production companies. However, currently around 80 percent of farmers in both Brazil and Pakistan grow crops based on saved seeds from previous harvests. Consequentially, resistance to the introduction of GURT technology into developing countries is strong. The technology is restricted at the plant variety level - hence the term V-GURT. Manufacturers of genetically enhanced crops would use this technology to protect their products from unauthorised use.
2. T-GURT: A second type of GURT modifies a crop in such a way that the genetic enhancement engineered into the crop does not function until the crop plant is treated with a chemical that is sold by the biotechnology company. Farmers can save seeds for use each year. However, they do not get to use the enhanced trait in the crop unless they purchase the activator compound. The technology is restricted at the trait level - hence the term T-GURT.

Possible advantages

Where effective intellectual property protection systems don't exist or are not enforced, GURTs could be an alternative to stimulate plant developing activities by biotech firms.

Non-viable seeds produced on V-GURT plants will reduce the propagation of volunteer plants. Volunteer plants can become an economic problem for larger-scale mechanized farming systems that incorporate crop rotation.

Under warm, wet harvest conditions non V-GURT grain can sprout, which lowers the quality of grain produced. It is speculated[weasel words] that this problem would not occur with the use of V-GURT grain varieties.

Use of V-GURT technology could prevent escape of transgenes into wild relatives and prevent any impact on biodiversity. Crops modified to produce non-food products could be armed with GURT technology to prevent accidental transmission of these traits into crops destined for foods.

Possible disadvantages

There is a concern that V-GURT plants could cross-pollinate with non-genetically modified plants, either in the wild or on the fields of farmers who do not adopt the technology. Though the V-GURT plants are supposed to produce sterile seeds, there is concern that this trait will not be expressed in the first generation of a small percentage of these plants, but be expressed in later generations. This does not seem to be much of a problem in the wild, as a sterile plant would naturally be selected out of a population within one generation of trait expression.

As with all genetically modified crops, the food safety of GURT technology would need to be assessed if a commercial release of a GURT containing crop were proposed.

Initially developed by the US Department of Agriculture and multinational seed companies, “suicide seeds” have not been commercialized anywhere in the world due to an avalanche of opposition from farmers, indigenous peoples, civil society, and some governments[which?]. In 2000, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity recommended a de facto moratorium on field-testing and commercial sale of Terminator seeds; the moratorium was re-affirmed in 2006. India and Brazil have already passed national laws to prohibit the technology

Bionic architecture

Bionic architecture is a movement for the design and construction of expressive buildings whose layout and lines borrow from natural (i.e. biological) forms. The movement began to mature in the early 21st century, and thus in early designs research was stressed over practicality. Bionic architecture sets itself in opposition to traditional rectangular layouts and design schemes by using curved forms and surfaces reminiscent of structures in biology and fractal mathematics. One of the tasks set themselves by the movement's early pioneers was the development of aesthetic and economic justifications for their approach to architecture.


Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN, SEHK: 4332) is an international biotechnology company headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California. Located in the Conejo Valley, Amgen is the largest independent biotech firm. The company employs approximately 14,000 staff members including the 125 Allied-Barton Security staff and A-post personnel in 2007. Its products include Epogen, Aranesp, Enbrel, Kineret, Neulasta, Neupogen, Sensipar / Mimpara and Nplate. Epogen and Neupogen (the company's first products on the market) were the two most successful biopharmaceutical products at the time of their respective releases.

BusinessWeek ranked Amgen fourth on the S&P 500 for being the most "future-oriented" of those five hundred corporations. BusinessWeek ostensibly calculated the ratio of research and development spending, combined with capital spending, to total outlays; Amgen had the fourth highest ratio, at 506:1000.

Amgen is the largest employer in Thousand Oaks and second only to the United States Navy in terms of number of people employed in Ventura County. Amgen is also a member of the Pennsylvania Bio commerce organization.

With plans to expand into a new campus under construction in South San Francisco, Amgen abruptly halted construction on the plans and instead put the 365,000 square feet (33,900 m2) of new space on the sublease market.

In 2006, Amgen began sponsoring the Tour of California, one of only three major Union Cycliste Internationale events in the United States.


The word AMGen is a portmanteau of the company's original name, Applied Molecular Genetics, which became the official name of the company in 1983 (three years after incorporation and coincident with its initial public offering). The company's first chief executive officer, from 1980, was George B. Rathmann, followed by Gordon M. Binder in 1988, followed by Kevin W. Sharer in 2000. The company has made at least five major corporate acquisitions.


Agrobacterium is a genus of Gram-negative bacteria that uses horizontal gene transfer to cause tumors in plants. Agrobacterium tumefaciens is the most commonly studied species in this genus. Agrobacterium is well known for its ability to transfer DNA between itself and plants, and for this reason it has become an important tool for plant improvement by genetic engineering.

The Agrobacterium genus is quite heterogeneous. Recent taxonomic studies have reclassified all of the Agrobacterium species into new genera, such as Ruegeria, Pseudorhodobacter and Stappia, but most species have been reclassified as Rhizobium species.

Plant pathogen

A. tumefaciens causes crown-gall disease in plants. The disease is characterised by a tumour-like growth or gall on the infected plant, often at the junction between the root and the shoot. Tumors are incited by the conjugative transfer of a DNA segment (T-DNA) from the bacterial tumour-inducing (Ti) plasmid. The closely related species, A. rhizogenes, induces root tumors, and carries the distinct Ri (root-inducing) plasmid. Although the taxonomy of Agrobacterium is currently under revision it can be generalised that 3 biovars exist within the genus, A. tumefaciens or biovar 1, A. rhizogenes or biovar 2, and A. vitis or biovar 3. Strains within biovars 1 and 2 are known to be able to harbour either a Ti or Ri-plasmid, whilst strains of biovar 3, generally restricted to grapevines, can harbour a Ti-plasmid. Non-Agrobacterium strains have been isolated from environmental samples which harbour a Ri-plasmid whilst laboratory studies have shown that non-Agrobacterium strains can also harbour a Ti-plasmid. Many environmental strains of Agrobacterium do not possess either a Ti or Ri-plasmid. These strains are avirulent.

The plasmid T-DNA is integrated semi-randomly into the genome of the host cell (Francis and Spiker, 2005. Plant Journal. 41(3): 464.), and the virulence (vir) genes on the T-DNA are expressed, causing the formation of a gall. The T-DNA carries genes for the biosynthetic enzymes for the production of unusual amino acids, typically octopine or nopaline. It also carries genes for the biosynthesis of the plant hormones, auxin and cytokinins. By altering the hormone balance in the plant cell, the division of those cells cannot be controlled by the plant, and tumors form. The ratio of auxin to cytokinin produced by the tumor genes determines the morphology of the tumor (root-like, disorganized or shoot-like).

Agrobacterium in humans

Although generally seen as an infection in plants, Agrobacterium can be responsible for opportunistic infections in humans with weakened immune systems, but has not been shown to be a primary pathogen in otherwise healthy individuals. A 2000 study published by the National Academy of Sciences suggested that Agrobacterium attaches to and genetically transforms several types of human cells by integrating its T-DNA into the human cell genome. The study was conducted under laboratory conditions and states that it does not draw any conclusions regarding related biological activity in nature.

There is a conjectured connection with Morgellons syndrome. Dr. Stricker, along with Dr. Citovsky, MRF board member from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an expert on plant pathogens, reported in January, 2007, that Morgellons skin fibers appear to contain cellulose. Five skin samples of Morgellons patients contained evidence of DNA from Agrobacterium.

Uses in biotechnology

The ability of Agrobacterium to transfer genes to plants and fungi is used in biotechnology, in particular, genetic engineering for plant improvement. A modified Ti or Ri plasmid can be used. The plasmid is 'disarmed' by deletion of the tumor inducing genes; the only essential parts of the T-DNA are its two small (25 base pair) border repeats, at least one of which is needed for plant transformation. Marc Van Montagu and Jozef Schell at the University of Ghent (Belgium) discovered the gene transfer mechanism between Agrobacterium and plants, which resulted in the development of methods to alter Agrobacterium into an efficient delivery system for gene engineering in plants. A team of researchers led by Dr Mary-Dell Chilton were the first to demonstrate that the virulence genes could be removed without adversely affecting the ability of Agrobacterium to insert its own DNA into the plant genome (1983).

The genes to be introduced into the plant are cloned into a plant transformation vector that contains the T-DNA region of the disarmed plasmid, together with a selectable marker (such as antibiotic resistance) to enable selection for plants that have been successfully transformed. Plants are grown on media containing antibiotic following transformation, and those that do not have the T-DNA integrated into their genome will die. An alternative method is agroinfiltration.
Plant (S. chacoense) transformed using Agrobacterium. Transformed cells start forming calluses on the side the leaf pieces

Transformation with Agrobacterium can be achieved in two ways. Protoplasts, or leaf-discs can be incubated with the Agrobacterium and whole plants regenerated using plant tissue culture. A common transformation protocol for Arabidopsis is the floral-dip method: the flowers are dipped in an Agrobacterium culture, and the bacterium transforms the germline cells that make the female gametes. The seeds can then be screened for antibiotic resistance (or another marker of interest), and plants that have not integrated the plasmid DNA will die.

Agrobacterium does not infect all plant species, but there are several other effective techniques for plant transformation including the gene gun.

Agrobacterium is listed as being the original source of genetic material that was transferred to these USA GMO foods :

* Soybean
* Cotton
* Corn
* Sugar Beet
* Alfalfa
* Wheat
* Rapeseed Oil (Canola)
* Creeping bentgrass (for animal feed)


The sequencing of the genomes of several species of Agrobacterium has permitted the study of the evolutionary history of these organisms and has provided information on the genes and systems involved in pathogenesis, biological control and symbiosis. One important finding is the possibility that chromosomes are evolving from plasmids in many of these bacteria. Another discovery is that the diverse chromosomal structures in this group appear to be capable of supporting both symbiotic and pathogenic lifestyles. The availability of the genome sequences of Agrobacterium species will continue to increase, resulting in substantial insights into the function and evolutionary history of this group of plant-associated microbes.

Agricultural Biotechnology

With increase in population and concern about the quality of food, the bio-agriculture has gained focus in the recent past in India. The farmers in India are looking at the GM seeds, biofertilizers, biopesticides from which they can expect more return on their investments and also increase productivity. The farmers are now getting a premium for the organic produce. With this now they are able to export their produce at much higher price. Lot of research initiatives are also being undertaken in the field to explore new technologies and new tie ups and joint ventures are being set up and are getting approvals from government for exploiting the technologies for the betterment of farmers and obtaining decent returns

GM Seeds
The challenge of producing more food grains to feed the ever increasing population of India that has already crossed one billion mark with less resources has bought companies like Mahyco, Monsanto, Syngenta, ProAgro, Advanta to invest in GM crops. It was in 2002 a joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto called Mahyco- Monsanto Biotech Ltd got the green signal from the Government of India for the commercial production and sale of Bt cotton (Bollgard) in six southern states of India.

A lot of awareness campaigns have to be conducted to reach out to the farmers to brief them about the benefits of using seeds that are resistant to pests, diseases, herbicides, and crops which are tolerant to drought, cold, salinity and other harsh environments. This will bring in confidence among the farmers as well as the industry people.

Biofertilizers, biopesticides
In addition to GM seeds, the farmers are also looking at biofertilizers, biopesticides to get more benefits. Now the farmers are using formulations based on Bt, viruses like NPV, and GV, as well as neem-based pesticides. To meet the increasing demand, the industry has to scale up investments in biofertilizers and biopesticides. Conservative estimate shows that the 10 percent saving through the use of biofertilizers will result in an annual saving of 1.094 million tons of nitrogenous fertilizers costing around Rs 550 crore.

Looking at the opportunity in biofuel sector, the central government has taken an initiative to promote this sector in a big way. The total consumption of ethanol-blended petrol is expected to be 4.6 million tons per year. This sector not only helps sugarcane farmers, as cane is used as raw material for production of ethanol, but also helps in building up the oil security apart from benefiting the environment. It can save foreign exchange to the tune of Rs 80,000 crore, as India imports about 70 percent of its requirement of crude oil.


Affymetrix (NASDAQ: AFFX) is a manufacturer of DNA microarrays, based in Santa Clara, California, United States. The company was co-founded by Dr. Stephen Fodor in 1992. The company was begun as a unit in Affymax N.V. in 1991 by Fodor's group, which had in the late 1980s developed methods for fabricating DNA microarrays, called "GeneChips" according to the Affymetrix trademark, using semiconductor manufacturing techniques. The company's first product, an HIV genotyping GeneChip, was introduced in 1994 and the company went public in 1996. As a result of their pioneering work and the ensuing popularity of microarray products, Affymetrix derives significant benefit from its patent portfolio in this area.

Acquisitions have included Genetic MicroSystems for slide-based microarrays and scanners, Neomorphic for bioinformatics, ParAllele Bioscience for custom SNP genotyping, USB/Anatrace for biochemical reagents, and Panomics and True Materials to expand its offering of low to mid-plex applications. In 2000 Perlegen Sciences was spun out to focus on wafer-scale genomics for massive data creation and collection required for characterizing population variance of genomic markers and expression for the drug discovery process.

Description of product

Affymetrix makes quartz chips for analysis of DNA Microarrays. These chips are sold under the trademarked name GeneChip. Affymetrix's GeneChips assist researchers in quickly scanning for the presence of particular genes in a biological sample. Within this area, Affymetrix is focused on oligonucleotide microarrays. These microarrays are used to determine which genes exist in a sample by detecting specific pieces of mRNA. A single chip can be used to do thousands of experiments in parallel. Chips can be used only once.

Affymetrix sells both mass produced GeneChips intended to match scientifically important parts of human and other animal genomes. Affymetrix manufactures its GeneChips using photolithography. The company also manufactures machinery for high speed analysis of biological samples.

Affymetrix GeneChip Operating Software is a software system for managing Affymetrix microarray data.

Competitors in the DNA Microarray business include Illumina, GE Healthcare, Applied Biosystems, Beckman Coulter, Eppendorf Biochip Systems, and Agilent. There are also various inexpensive plastic-based technologies under development in small companies and laboratories around the world. It has been widely speculated that mass-produced plastic chips can be produced at lower prices than Affymetrix's quartz chips.

Affymetrix has established a licensing program to make its intellectual property accessible to stimulate the broad commercialization of genome analysis technologies. They have several collaboration relationships with other companies that utilize their patented GeneChip technology.

Future Innovations & Direction

It is unknown whether or not Affymetrix is currently focusing any effort on full genome sequencing, which is thought to be the next major breakthrough in genetic technology and could significantly disrupt the array markets. It's competitor, Illumina, as well as a number of private companies, such as Pacific Biosciences and Complete Genomics have been heavily invested in the race to commercialize full genome sequencing for a number of years. Complete Genomics has stated that they will be able to provide a full genome sequencing service for $5,000 by the summer of 2009. In June 2009, Illumina, Affymetrix's primary competitor, announced that they were launching their own Personal Full Genome Sequencing Service at a depth of 30X for $48,000 per genome. This is still too expensive for true commercialization but the price will most likely decrease substantially over the next few years as they realize economies of scale and given the competition with other companies such as Complete Genomics.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Variants of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the use of biological processes, organisms, or systems to manufacture products intended to improve the quality of human life. The earliest biotechnologists were farmers who developed improved species of plants and animals by cross pollenization or cross breeding. In recent years, biotechnology has expanded in sophistication, scope, and applicability in various sectors of modern economy.

The science of biotechnology can be broken down into different sub-disciplines called red, white, green, and blue.

Red biotechnology involves medical processes such as getting organisms to produce new drugs, or using stem cells to regenerate damaged human tissues and perhaps re-grow entire organs, designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genomic manipulation, DNA fingerprinting to achieve advancements in understanding human evolution and origin of various diseases, tissue culture for detection of diseases etc. are examples of red biotechnology.

White biotechnology, also known as grey biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. An example is the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical. White biotechnology tends to consume less in resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods. Fermentation process which is used for making bread and other eatables is an example of white biotechnology.

Green biotechnology is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example is the designing of transgenic plants to grow under specific environmental conditions or in the presence (or absence) of certain agricultural chemicals. One hope is that green biotechnology might produce more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture. An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, thereby eliminating the need for external application of pesticides. An example of this would be Bt corn. Green revolution in India is a successful example of green biotechnology, resulting in increased yield and productivity and self sufficiency in food production. Introduction of various biofertilsers and biopesticides are other examples of green biotechnology.

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques. The field is also often referred to as computational biology. It plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector. This is the sunrise industry in the field with growth of IT industry.

Plant Production Biotechnology

There is scarcely any aspect of plant production that will not undergo profound changes as a result of the application of biotechnology. Commercial applications of plant genetic engineering have not yet occurred. At the present time, more traditional aspects of biotechnology such as tissue culture have had an important impact, especially in the acceleration of the breeding process for new varieties and in the multiplication of disease-free seed material.

Provision of seeds: Plant breeding has been enhanced considerably by in vitro development of improved varieties which are better adapted to a specific environment. The application of tissue culture has several advantages, including rapid reproduction and multiplication, availability of seed material throughout the year etc. Since the application of tissue culture does not require very expensive equipment, this technology can be applied easily in developing countries and can help to improve local varieties of food-crops. For example, using traditional methods for propagating potatoes.

Reduced use of agrochemicals: Biotechnology can help reduce the need for agrochemicals which small farmers in developing countries often cannot afford. A reduction in the use of agrochemicals implies fewer residues in the final product. This is expected to enhance the productivity and land fertility as well as reduction in toxic elements in crops.

Increased production: Biotechnology can be used in many ways to achieve higher yields; for example by improving flowering capacity and increasing photosynthesis or the intake of nutritive elements. Productivity increases may lead to lower prices¸ which is a vital policy objective in many a developing nation.

Improved harvesting: The cloning of plants can help to reduce the work necessary for harvesting. When individual plants show more uniform characteristics, grow at the same speed and ripen at the same time, harvesting will be less laborious. A reduction in the workload is not only an objective in highly industrialized countries, it can also be very important for small farmers in developing countries.

Improved storage: Food shortages would not exist in many countries if the problem of post-harvest losses could be solved. In the future, genetic engineering may be used to remove plant components that cause early deterioration of the harvest. For instance, a technique to reduce the presence of a normal tomato enzyme involved in the softening of ripe tomato fruit has been patented and would be found very useful for enhancing the shelf life of crops of various varieties.

Molecular Biotechnology

Perhaps the most potent use of biotechnology for development of human well being has been in the field of molecular biotechnology. The powerful revolution in medicine during the past decade has been in the field of genomic research that has completely transformed conventional medicine into molecular medicine. The remarkable unveiling of virtually complete Human Genome in June, 2000, and release of the genetic code in February, 2001, has been instrumental in unraveling path breaking research and wonder drugs and application for scientific community. While it has created jubilation amongst medical professionals across the globe, but at the same time, the intended applications raised several ethical, legal and issues social too (ELSI).

Advances in genomic medicine research in India in the field of cancer genomics, vaccinology, microbial genomics, pharmacogenomics, vector genomics, neurogenetics and molecular basis of diseases have resulted in development of new drugs and finding new cures for ailments which were considered to be fatal in the past.

While new developments are taking place in the field, the need to further upgrade the proven technologies such as diagnostics and vaccines and make them use for application is also emerging. It is here that the Indian Industry will have to put extra efforts to benefit out of biotechnology revolution. Thus it is seen that while the Indian industry is strong in product development and marketing for commercial benefits, biotech in India still lacks the infrastructure required for R&D in molecular modelling, protein engineering, drug designing and immunological studies. This issue needs to be addressed immediately to gain out of research initiatives.

Another aspect worth considering is that various technologies in the field of molecular biotechnologies have the potential to improve productivity and increase the number and quality of new drugs by validating more genomically diverse and higher quality drug targets and speeding-up clinical development by designing better trials that clearly show better safety, efficacy and compliance. As per an estimate, by improvising medical outcomes by use of well developed drugs and diagnostics, pharmaceutical companies could benefit to the order of US$ 200-500 million in extra revenue for each drug. Apex scientific bodies in India e.g. CSIR, ICMR, DBT have launched country-wide programmes to identify and characterize new drug targets, especially in the area of tuberculosis, malaria, leishmania etc., besides new drug targets for diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological disorders. In addition, there is also in the pipeline a proposal to undertake single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping in over 500 genes to identify and characterize in Indian population, the genes linked to susceptibility to malaria, TB, diabetes and some cardiovascular and neurological disorders, which are more common in Indian context.