The new revolution in technology
According to an industry report, capital investment in Biotechnology companies has soared 30 percent in 2014 from the year before, reaching over $10 billion. Wall Street analysts declared: “Today, Biotechnology is the second biggest category for investment after software. As hardware and software have reached the saturation point, investors are looking for the next thing that they can invest that will give significant return and they are gaining confidence in Biotechnology industry (the industry that includes health care devices and technologies that support medical and pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs etc.) Because innovations have advanced significantly in the past few years, many analysts believe that there will be a record number of investments in this field. An analyst wrote: “With the news that these companies are successfully help pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that can cure cancer, there is no reason not to invest in these biotechnology companies.”
Traditional biotechnology industry consists mostly of large companies with thousands of scientists and expensive research laboratories but today with new technologies, things are changing. One of the fastest growing technologies is in healthcare apps for smartphones that can do amazing thing. For example a smartphone with a small attachment cost less than $40 can accurately detected the presence of HIV and syphilis antibodies in drops of blood. A medical doctor said: “Today smartphone apps have proved that they can do diagnostics better, faster and cheaper than a complex laboratory and they will completely change the entire field of medical diagnostic.” Another Wall Street analyst wrote: “There are emerging healthcare startups that create better and more sophisticated applications and they have huge potential. The next “Google” and “Facebook” will be in the biotechnology field. Of course they are not the traditional biotechnology where researchers do thing in the laboratory but this is a completely new biotechnology where researchers are software engineers and computer science who create new ways of detect diseases as well as new ways to develop drugs that can cure diseases using complex software. This is a new field that never been explored before where it introduce technologies to solve problems in the medical and pharmaceutical fields.”
According to Wall Street analysts, what make Apple being the best company today is not the iPhone or iPads but what it will create in the next few years. An analyst explained: “Of course Apple is the most successful company in the world today but investors are looking further into its future. It is not about the Apple watch or Apple TV that many people are talking now but the fact is Apple is entering the health-care industry. With Health-Kit and Health Research, Apple is building new platforms for future health development. Before he died, Steve Jobs gave several instructions to his successors on what to do. We may see some parts of his vision now as Apple is getting into health-care business.” The next step after hardware and software is definitely biotechnology because today medicine is becoming an information technology and this is a new field that has huge potential as much as ten times more than hardware and software combine.”
With sophisticated technologies, new innovations are changing the field of medicine completely. With big data analytics, software engineers can trace certain genes to special biological pathways that cause diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases. Knowing the causes of diseases at this genetic level can also help scientists to develop drugs that can change the pathways, thus eliminate diseases completely. What took researchers in the past ten or twenty years to do in the laboratories can now be done in just few months with the help of fast computers and complex software. As the power of computer is increasing dramatically and its prices are falling quickly there will be more innovations in medicine and health fields. Today smartphones from Apple, Google, and Samsung already have built in special sensors which can measure heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, and activity levels etc. These data can be transferred to Apple’s cloud-based platforms such as Health-Kit to analyze and detect any abnormalities in the body and warns the owner of possible health problems.
An analyst wrote: “People are always concerned about their health and nothing is better than having a “doctor in your pocket” to monitor your health and tell you what to do. Imagine that with a drop of blood on an attachment device, your “doctor in the smartphone” can tell you whether you have heart diseases, HIV, syphilis or cancer within minutes. By combining these data with your medical records, a mobile app automatically contact a doctor in hospital for treatments. Today your smartphone can advise you on what medications that you should take and how to improve our health. This is a revolutionary in health care and it is exploding.”
Of course, Apple is not the only technology company that is investing in Biotechnology in the past year, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are also moving quickly into this new emerging market. Last month, Google announced that it is developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in a person’s tears and transmit these data via an antenna thinner than a human hair to the android smartphone phones to monitor people with diabetes. An analyst wrote: “Today technology companies are merging several software, hardware and biotechnology fields into a new business. With advanced technologies, we will soon have smartphones that monitor almost every aspect of our body’s functioning. Soon the smartphone will become a new medical device that can diagnose diseases better than medical doctors. In just few years, we will see more revolutionary technologies and it will completely change the business market.”
With computers and smartphones collecting data from several hundred millions people, big data analytics software will be able to help the pharmaceutical industry to design effective drugs for treatment. Today we are witnessing the genomics revolution as the cost of analyzing a human genome has fallen from $100 million in 2001 to about $1000 today and will likely cost as much as $100 by the end of this decade. What this means is that genes that make up a human being have been analyzed to determine how the body works. The gene is data that can be processed by complex software in very fast computer. Genome analysis is currently being used to guide the treatment of cancers and it is very effective. By using computer to interpret the genome and understand its biology, scientists can improve diagnostics, medicines, and clinical practice according to an individual’s genomic information. That is why Apple, Google, Microsoft and even Amazon are rushing to enter this field as they see a huge potential business opportunities.
Today researchers at Google are developing special nanoparticles that can attach to cancer cells to help people know exactly when it happens, where it is growing inside the body so doctors can treat it quickly. The new treatment is also revolutionary, instead of surgery or chemotherapy; there are new “synthetic life forms” that can be programmed to destroy only the cancer cells. Many Biotechnology companies are experimented with these new drugs, therapeutic vaccines, and synthetic microorganisms to completely eradicate these deadly diseases. Google is also going further by using genomics data to extend the lifespan of humans by changing the cells in the elderly such as neurodegeneration to promote new growth and, ultimately extend life.
Microsoft and Apple are conducting research on tissue-engineering and 3D-printing technologies that can print personalized organs and modification of the human body for replacement. An analyst wrote: “Soon you will see that Google is no longer a search engine company but also a biotechnology company. Soon you will see that Apple is no longer a computer company but also a biotechnology company etc. In the past few years, there is a quiet revolution being made and last year marked an inflection point for medicine. Suddenly the hottest field in college is no longer computer but biotechnology as it combines bio-science and computer technology to solve the most difficult problems: Detect and cure diseases and it will affect humanity and it could change everything. Today we have entered a new era of medicine where computer have promised that it will be exciting and significant to everybody who are concerning about their health.
- Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University