Biotechnology has seen consistent technological improvements and scientific discoveries in recent years, ranging from advancements in gene-editing technology to personalized medicine. The goal of organizations, research institutions, and businesses within the biotech industry has been to improve the quality of life for individuals worldwide – a noble goal that the industry continues to meet in new ways every new year. In 2021, many advancements were made to achieve this goal of a better quality of life for all.

Innovations in the Biotech Industry

The intersection of technology and biology has been one of the most innovative trends of the 21st century. This intersection has provided us with rapidly improving technologies that help solve significant global challenges such as environmental damage, food shortages, and illness.

Biotech & Agriculture

Biotechnology can assist farmers with developing more resilient crops and preventing global food crises and starvation. Advancements in this space have the potential to provide food security to billions of individuals all over the globe.

The advent of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat) gene-editing technology gave rise to new methods for developing disease-resistant crops. The promise of this technology is to utilize more sustainable agricultural practices without using toxic chemicals for crop protection.

Gene-editing technology allows for the creation of enhanced seed crops without using foreign gene sequences, as is the practice in GMO crops. In essence, it makes the development of commercially superior crops such as tomatoes, rice, tobacco, wheat, soybeans, and cotton possible.

NOVO has supported several companies using new technologies such as MAS (marker-assisted selection) and CRISPR to develop more robust seed crops.

Personalized Medicine

Traditional medicine and drugs have always been “one-size-fits-all,” but advances in biotechnology have shaped the way for custom-tailored medications that fit the individual. Understanding an individual’s DNA makeup makes it possible to predict specific population segments where a particular disease or illness is more likely to occur.

While this technology is still being developed, we can expect to see further advances in personalized medicine with a focus on an approach that considers the individual and their unique biology. These advances can prevent scatter-shot treatments that negatively affect certain individuals and potentially improve recovery rates.

During 2021, NOVO supported the development of a promising ingestible device family for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. 

Cell Culture Bioreactor Automation

Bioreactors are an essential part of cell production for cell therapy applications. Any automation solutions that could be applied to bioreactors can significantly contribute to overall output and yields.

An example is a bioreactor project that NOVO worked on in 2021. The effort was to automate generating mammalian cell libraries using a proprietary gene-editing process. The core of the system is a custom programmable bioreactor that automates all the critical functions needed to feed, incubate, agitate, and sample the delicate cells. Status and growth patterns were monitored during the production cycle, significantly improving process reliability and yield. 

Mammalian Cell Transfection Via Electroporation

Introducing DNA or RNA into cells to genetically modify them is known as transfection, and the process can be performed both in-vivo and in vitro. When an electric pulse is applied to cells, a temporary pore forms in the cell membrane allowing substances such as nucleic acids to pass through. It is an efficient alternative to viral vectors for introducing foreign nucleic acids into a variety of cells, including bacteria or mammalian cells. The introduction of DNA and RNA into cells has the advantage of being a physical transfection method that does not trigger the body’s immune response for in vivo applications. 

In 2021, the NOVO engineering team supported future product development for an in vivo electroporation system we had helped to develop to deliver DNA-based vaccines and cancer therapies. We also supported the development of a laboratory electroporation system for drug discovery and other cellular research.  

Aseptic & Sterile Processing

The biotech industry needs sterile and aseptic processing for a wide range of biological products, especially during manufacturing. NOVO has worked to develop robust automation systems that solve common aseptic and sterile processing problems, such as ensuring sterile samples when incubation is involved to prevent the amplification of any contamination present on a sample.

Solving automation problems around sterile and aseptic processing is increasingly important as the use of biological drugs increases and as the FDA approves more cell therapies. 

Lab Automation

Lab automation has benefited from the steady advances in industrial controls, optics, image analysis, and laboratory information systems (LIMS). These advancements allow faster development and greater capabilities. In biotech, automation requirements are driven by both manufacturing and research needs. 

According to recent surveys, many scientific experiments are facing a crisis of reproducibility. More than 70 percent of survey respondents stated that they have difficulty recreating the experimental results of another scientist. Improving the lab automation process can increase output and ensure the reproducibility of experiments and tests.

NOVO has been involved in custom lab automation for biotech clients since our beginnings. Projects have included specialized systems for sample collection, enzyme discovery, bioreactors, reagent filling, reformatting, and numerous other applications. Our focus is on custom automation projects.

Contact NOVO to learn how these advancements can benefit your business today

NOVO has been directly involved in product development engineering on dozens of projects within the biotech industry. Our team’s experience and extensive knowledge will help make your idea a reality. Developing a new biotech product or improving your existing manufacturing processes with automation solutions can significantly impact your business.

Please contact the NOVO engineering team today to learn more about the projects and advancements NOVO has supported.