By Hugo Barrera
Op-ed Article

Innovation in the life sciences industry requires ideas to be developed into carefully tested concepts. When it comes to new devices, diagnostic tools or experimental treatments, it’s always best to carry out prototype testing and to conduct technical feasibility and commercial viability studies. To ensure the efficiency of these processes, it is essential to be equipped with resources such as market information, business plans, prototype manufacturing, preclinical or even clinical study results, and of course, the necessary funding, among other things.

These resources are at the core of what I have come to call a Biopole, which should be started and coordinated at any teaching hospital dedicated to research, higher education of health professionals, and the care of patients for the purpose of making an impact in society by improving people’s health and wellbeing.

Under ideal conditions, the following key professional services should be available at a Biopole:

  • A biobank, for the purpose of storing, procuring, transporting, processing, retaining, distributing, and tracking the biological specimens under study through the corresponding database containing demographic, clinical, lifestyle, and environmental exposure information from specimen donors.
  • A precision medicine laboratory equipped with omics and other kinds of technologies (notably, genome reading as well as transcriptomic and proteomic signature identification tools) to analyze biological specimens and either determine the risk of developing a disease, in the case of healthy people with an interest in their future health; detect a disease as early as possible, in the case of people with presumed signs of disease, or choose the best course of treatment based on the most appropriate diagnostic tools available for ill patients. The new data science would be an essential tool in achieving all this.
  • A GMP manufacturing site, that is to say, a good manufacturing practices-compliant (GMP, as per FDA) laboratory engaged in the production of experimental therapeutic agents, such as stem cell-based cell therapy.
  • A bioincubator, designed to assess prototypes for new products, processes, and services with the purpose of validating their potential to yield patents and licenses, or even turn into technology-based new companies.

Lastly, this assemblage of resources could be enhanced with

  • A clinical research accelerator to speed up design, fundraising, regulatory approval, and experimental assessment (through rigorous clinical protocols) activities for new concepts derived from discoveries and inventions made in research laboratories.

A biopole is one of the best ways for teaching hospitals to support all those researchers who strive to transform their diagnostic and therapeutic innovations in improved health and social wellbeing.


Dr. Hugo Barrera is a research professor of Bioinformatics for Clinical Diagnosis at the Tecnológico de Monterrey School of Medicine. He received a BSc in Biology from the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León School of Biological Sciences in 1979 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas Health Science Center in 1982. He completed a postdoctoral program in Genetic Engineering from Louis Pasteur University (France) in 1984. He followed specialty course Converting Technology to Wealth at ICC-Austin and ITESM in 1999.


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