Discovery, innovation, and practical application are never a straight line and, the best analogy is “the broken road.” Our greatest discoveries and advancements have confusing, uneven, and broken pathways that often lead somewhere astonishing – even though at the outset the initial steps could never envision this as a final destination. Artificial intelligence is the embodiment of this concept. A powerful tool that can lead anywhere given the imagination and unlimited creativity of its users. There may be nowhere more impactful, generating therapies for unmet medical needs in record time, than artificial intelligence’s ability to mimic evolution in minutes. The real outcomes are still unpredictable, but the potential is unfathomable. AI languages that produce pictures seem to be initially relegated toward a combination of Tik-Tok influencers, outraged artists, and those with limited imaginations and creative skills. But now, AI-generated pictures can use text to direct specific protein designs with properties of shape, size, and/or function that make it possible for these new proteins to perform specific tasks on demand. This breakthrough may lead to more efficient and effective drug development and, the discovery in minutes of what evolution would otherwise have taken millions of years to develop.
Remarkable things can happen. Or not. Can we solve climate change, food shortage, limited healthcare, and other global stresses – all with TikTok videos? Innovation is unpredictable and astonishing – it can address the world’s most critical issues today, from hunger to efficient energy, to devastating diseases. It is also too often misguided, inefficient, and meaningless – creating nothing more than distractions and wastes of time cloaked in an image of technological wonder. Misguided and manipulative business plans sit alongside the groundbreaking disruptions that may address society’s most significant problems. We don’t have time. Even though there is no clear argument for resources going to a new video-sharing platform or immersive game, that is beside the point. Technology delivers something, nothing else can. It is the only way to find solutions to otherwise intractable and potentially devastating global crises. . The freedom to pursue solutions is the essential first step. Letting the best people do their best is still the best policy. It will also generate the best outcome.
Transformation, or euphemistically, “disruption,” creates great opportunities to capture newly created wealth. But, as industries are transforming and strategic disruption is occurring, quite a lot of absurdity and certainly enough terror are associated with some of these extraordinary opportunities to require much greater analysis and understanding. There are extraordinary risks associated with anything disruptive and transformational. The first disruptor isn’t always the one who creates the most value or is even a sustainable competitive entity. Innovation does not mean competitive sustainability. Digital platforms, ranging from the internet to digital assets and cryptocurrency are transforming industries globally. But, along with that comes a lot of hyperbole and typically that is followed by very little substance. Great companies use technological disruption, innovation, and transformation to establish themselves and thrive. But they rarely last. Every company, even the most valuable companies such as Apple, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, etc. must dynamically transform to stay competitive and valuable. Transformations are certain. New entities will become very valuable, legacy companies will diminish, and a handful will transform and thrive. Transformation and sustainability create and capture great wealth, but are far more challenging to identify, and even more challenging to sustain.
While messenger RNA (mRNA) has been catching recent headlines thanks to its ability to fight Covid, the combination of a global pandemic and the miraculous mRNA vaccine development in less than one year (when typical timelines approach 10 years) has made mRNA life science’s overnight sensation even though the underlying scientific knowledge is based on discoveries from over 20 years ago.
Still, mRNA has the promise to disrupt life sciences and drug development and create enormous economic value. There are fantastic fortunes to be made in mRNA technology. Moderna and BioNTech have created over $100 billion of value collectively, as of February 2022. That kind of value creation will not be ignored by a combination of firms within an industry with hundreds of billions to invest.
There will be an incredible future of development, capital availability, and industry focus until all potential options are exhausted. But, mRNA has a fantastic future, even if it ultimately lives only in labs and R&D centers spread around the globe. It will become an area of focus for every major pharmaceutical company and most biotechs in some form from now on.
Investors have been swept up in the notion of “philanthropic capitalism” and have targeted life-sciences as an avenue that can fulfill this benefit to society. While laudable in concept, this is non-scientific surrealism. “Hoped-for” is not a reliable business model, and most of the unrealistic goals would not be sustainable even if achieved. Real science and innovation are more impactful and substantial and make life sciences even more.