Medical And Biotech Advancements On The Horizon Are Cause For Optimism
In the early days of the 21st century, the emerging power of digital technologies upended huge swaths of the global economy. For the first time, we could buy just about anything we wanted, and, without leaving home, have a desired item appear on the doorstep in a matter of days. Suddenly, almost shockingly, we all started to carry powerful computers in our pockets. These devices quickly became (among other things) our navigators, our cameras, our financial planners, and our comprehensive communications systems.
Such developments had real economic value. They saved time, made previously tedious tasks bearable, and lowered prices on many items with the help of logistical progress. Companies like Amazon and Apple heaped up billions in profits.
Lately, though, it's starting to feel like the tech sector has lost its glossy sheen. The profits at most of the big tech companies are still doing fine (with some notable exceptions, like Twitter). Still, a number of the most influential tech companies are doing essentially nothing these days beyond trying to stick more and more advertisements in front of our eyeballs. While advertising certainly has its place within the modern economy, it's nonetheless hard to get too excited anymore about what amounts to placing better-targeted digital billboards everywhere.
There is a shining standout, however, in the world of medical tech. Medical startups infused with emerging technologies are already poised to upend the world of traditional medicine.
Of course, in meeting the moment, medical applications of AI are seizing the spotlight. Imagine a doctor who can detect cancer in almost every instance with close to a zero percent failure rate, and you're somewhere in the neighborhood of where AI is projected to drive us within a couple more years.
There are plenty of other groundbreaking medical advances though that have been less successful at stealing the spotlight. Gene drive could very well eliminate malaria as a global health concern within the relatively near future. We have only begun to tap the potential of quick, reliable, and safe mRNA vaccines. More universally, scientists have started to unravel the Gordian knot of aging, which could, potentially quickly, result in human beings leading much longer, much healthier lives.
The potential is there. However, large-scale scandals always have a chilling effect on investment, and Theranos in particular massively scared capital away from the biotech sector.
The sour taste leftover by fraudsters is a valid concern within the medical startup community. That being said, with a focus on fundamentals, there are huge opportunities for growth that are going overlooked. Unlike with some of the big tech companies which are fully reliant on advertising, in the medical space, scrappy upstarts with achievable results (when their services are properly scaled and eventually affordably priced) become indispensable.
There is a lot of pessimism in the American economy and in America in general these days. That makes sense to a degree. Yet, there's a reason why American companies tend to be so innovative. While the pace of innovation might be slowing, I don't see the general pattern being comprehensibly reversed anytime in the near future. Big things are happening in medical and biotech, and I'll eat my hat if we don't have some kind of huge, world-changing advance within the next 10 years.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn't want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at [email protected].