Phi Trends: Healthy growth for alternative therapies
Gulf Business|April 2021
The market for alternative therapies such as gene-based solutions has garnered investor interest due to advancements in recent months, states entrepreneur and investor Shailesh Dash, who shares his perspective in this monthly column

Alternative therapy subsets such as gene-based solutions have been gathering momentum at a remarkable pace in recent times. The potential applications of genome engineering are poised to have a deeply significant impact on the future of medical advancements and healthcare as we know it. Initially facing a barrage of acceptance challenges in the form of approval from government bodies and other authorities, gene therapy has evolved over the years to include the potential to prevent hereditary diseases such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis, as well as presenting a possible cure for cancer, AIDS and heart disease.

CRISPR-based diagnostics in particular, have evolved at a substantial pace over the last couple of years. In 2020, the Covid19 situation only accelerated the advent of these gene editing tools and magnified their role within the industry. Many researchers moved to study the virus and brought gene editing and sequencing technologies to the forefront to meet the need of the hour. CRISPR-based technology also served the urgent need for faster and better testing diagnostics through gene detection. It was used successfully to develop rapid Cov id-19 test ing and attained its first US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. CRISPR technology further helped the shift from physical facilities to point-of-care settings including off-the-shelf tests or pop-up testing centres. Researchers and scientists are also turning to CRISPR’s applications as a possible therapeutic option to destroy the Covid-19 genomic RNA and stop viral replication. In March, Belgian researchers identified host factors necessary for a Covid-19 infection by performing genomewide genetic screens. This breakthrough could allow the use of such factors in developing drugs to treat Covid-19 or even potential future outbreaks of similar coronaviruses.

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