We love answering questions! Joshua E. asks What fields do you think consumer biotech can enter and what tools can be used to achieve these goals?
Consumer biotechnology is just that – biotechnology made for you to use in your everyday life.
When people hear the word ‘biotechnology’ they think of scientists in white lab coats working for years on complex scientific problems.
This is what Google thinks a scientist looks like. We suggest you visit Looks Like Science for some more diversity.
This means that unless you are interested in becoming one of those people in white lab coats, you often don’t have the opportunity to have hands on experience with ‘biotech’. It can seem like a mysterious process.
Computers started out a bit like this too – they weren’t available to the general public at first, and people reacted to them with skepticism. What could they possibly be good for?
“There is a world market for maybe 5 computers”
Thomas Watson, IBM Chairman, 1943
Today everyone owns multiple computers—tablets, laptops, cell phones, entertainment systems, etc. They have made a whole new world of connection and technology possible.
The interesting thing is that the turning point in computer innovation wasn’t just better/cheaper technology or the demonstrated benefit of a time-saving spreadsheet. Games played an important role. The accessibility and availability of the technology to add some fun and interest to the everyday person’s life is what made the computer exciting. And, it got people thinking about what else computers could do.
This entertained a generation.
Then suddenly, dragons.
Today, fields like genetic engineering and synthetic biology share the fundamental goal of allowing us to engineer biological systems. Tools like CRISPR genome editing and mathematical models of biological systems allow us to develop new biotechnology with greater precision.
We’ve already done some great things with this – insulin, for example, comes from genetically engineered bacteria and improves the quality of life for millions of diabetics. Artemesinin (a powerful malaria drug) is now produced on an industrial scale in microbial bioreactors. These are important life-saving uses of biotechnology.
But this is not what will spur the same sort of creative innovation that has taken computer technology from four ton machines to the iPhone. To do that, we need people to have biotechnology in their hands. At Revolution Bio, we’re making Pong for the biotech world: Color-changing flowers. They’re beautiful, accessible, and something that everyone can appreciate.
That’s what consumer biotechnology is all about, making advanced biological science personal and fun. Like Pong, this is just the start. We think consumer biotechnology could have an impact in everything from the gardens we plant, the materials we use for building, the fabrics we wear, even the way you recycle.
It’s safe to say that we can’t predict the most amazing advances to come out of this movement. Who would have imagined Skyrim while playing PONG? We’re excited to be a part of this incredible new field and we’re looking forward to making consumer biotechnology a part of your life.
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