Last month saw oil prices dip below the $30 per barrel threshold for the first time in 10 years. If we still had any doubts about the current volatility in the global oil market, I imagine they’re long gone by now. In fact, many people claim that the situation is the worst we’ve seen in 45 years. And if plummeting prices weren’t enough to worry about, the oil industry will soon have to contend with the Great Crew Change, when approximately half of its workforce will be entering retirement age—and taking large swaths of institutional knowledge with them. Despite the difficulties facing the industry, however, the petrochemical sector still remains a source of potential growth. While fracking persists as a point of contention among environmental advocacy groups in the United States, shale gas development has brought two benefits to the industry. First, it offers another source of energy. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in today’s economic climate, it provides key raw materials to make plastics and other products. These two things are driving petrochemical companies to expand their existing plants in anticipation of this growing sector.

Modern medicine is quickly moving away from generic treatments and toward the personalization of therapy. In other words, people are more interested in “the right treatment for the right person at the right time.” These days, the “right treatment” often involves biologics in the form of monoclonal antibodies, which cover the surface of cancer cells and trigger their destruction by activating the immune system. Other monoclonal antibodies destroy cancers by targeting proteins necessary for growth or by directly activating immune cells.

For some time now, sugar has been considered the “bad boy” of the American diet, more related to poison than to any life-sustaining food ingredient. Importantly, what some scientists refer to it as “poison” specifically refers to added sugar and not the naturally occurring sugar that is present in fruit and milk. Regardless, eating too much sugar has been linked to a variety of issues such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. But with sugar as the basis of what makes many foods taste so good, can we reasonably cut out sugar or stick to what many consider to be Spartan daily recommendations as provided by the American Heart Association?

The greatest problems with cancer treatment lie in their nonspecificity: cancer cells can be difficult to target and in the process of targeting them, therapies often kills healthy cells. In designing newer interventions, pharmaceutical companies and research organizations see much potential in the development of antibody-drug conjugates, monoclonal antibodies that allow “sensitive discrimination between healthy and diseased tissue.” Beyond being able to detect the differences between cancer and normal cells via antibody binding, antibody-drug conjugates can deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells upon binding, where linkers prevent the chemotherapy agent from leaving the antibody before it reaches cancerous cells.

The biotherapeutics market has seen marked growth in recent years, a trend that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. If anything, as more innovative drugs gain regulatory approval, the field is guaranteed to become increasingly crowded. In order to remain competitive, life sciences companies will need to find ways to speed up their product release cycle. In fact, estimates claim that delays occurring during the discovery and preclinical development of a new drug can value a loss of $1 million per day. Indeed, in the current climate, organizations must adopt strategies that support efficient operational excellence in the hopes of not only recouping their investment, but to also maintain their advantage over rival firms.

A big change is coming to store shelves. Late last year, President Obama signed a bill that bans the sale and distribution of products containing plastic microbeads. The law is part of an ongoing effort to protect our nation’s waterways. For the purpose of the new law, a microbead is defined as a plastic particle that’s less than 5 millimeters in diameter. Microbeads, however, can be found in all sorts of personal care products, ranging from toothpaste to exfoliating scrubs. They’re meant to cleanse and due to their miniscule size, wash down the drain.

Developing a new drug requires that life sciences companies invest vast amounts of resources. Depending on the complexity of treatment, firms can devote over a decade to the R&D process. In terms of financial cost, a single drug can require hundreds of millions of dollars from start to finish. Considering […]

The earliest evidence of “biomanufacturing” can be found inside of a 9,000-year-old urn discovered in China. According to MIT Professor Paul Barone, chemical analysis of the inside suggested that the vessel was used to make alcoholic beverages with grape, rice, honey and hawthorn fruit. In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur, known as the “father of microbiology,” would demystify the process of transforming bread and fruits into alcoholic beverages by uncovering that yeast is used in fermentation to produce alcohol from sugars. In the 20th century, strains of mold mutated by UV and X-ray radiation enabled the production of large amounts of the antibacterial penicillin, while the concept of proteins as therapeutic agents emerged with the isolation of insulin from pigs and cows. Though we have used cells to do our bidding for millennia, only recently have we begun to systematically use them to create novel, protein therapeutics.

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