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Genomics: From Cure To Prevention? What’s Next? Immortality?

Radical evolutions in science and technology have persistently proliferated the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry across the globe. Since the evolution of life on earth, numerous epidemics and pandemics jeopardized mankind, thus catalyzing innumerable empirical studies conducted by scientists and clinical professionals on living organisms such as humans, animals and plants. Identifying answers to various questions such as what constitutes the human body? What is genetics? How do viruses and illnesses originate and subsequently spread. How do organisms get infected? What can be a potential cure?

Fast-forward to 2020s, unbelievable metamorphic changes propelled health care, pharma, life sciences, healthtech, medtech, biotech, nanotech and so forth. The notion of playing around with genetics/genomics has adorned itself as a game changer for decades to follow. Bringing under the spotlight, potential cures to fatal illnesses such as cancer or chronic diseases, plausible shift towards prevention than diagnosis and considerate increase in life expectancy. Unfathomable projects are under scrutiny and experimentation by Google and many to achieve immortality. Something individuals have been acquainted with via mythologies or sci fi movies. So, what is the world heading towards? How ethical are these advancements? What should be a response towards this change?

Genomics is the study of the collection of all the genes in an organism. Governments along with health care systems around the world are propagating the idea of having their citizens to opt for sequencing. Indeed, the demand for sequencing has skyrocketed, from predominantly being a niche offering to a mass accessibility. The cost of a sequencing costed $95,000,000 in 2001 while in 2020s its costs just $300. Mind-blowing isn’t it? In just a decade the prices tapered drastically thanks to augmenting computational power. Technology is becoming smarter, absorbing massive amounts of data at an astounding rate and coming back with recommendations / suggestions for decision making.

Developments in genomics bring with it a ray of hope to cure cancer and chronic diseases. Genetic editing allows scientists to add, modify and remove genetic material of an organism creating possibilities of treatments for incurable diseases however ethical implications exist. Designer babies are a subject of ethical dilemma and prohibited in multiple countries albeit the possibility of manipulating genetics of an embryo according to one’s parents’ wishes sounds extremely far-fetched.  All the more genomics has the prowess to shift the ideal procedure of diagnosis and cure to preventive healthcare.

Gene therapy boils down to the fact that hereditary diseases can be evaded by alteration of genes. Implying that an individual’s life expectancy is bound to increase by a significant number of years. Liquid biopsy a fantastic outcome of genomics believed to help detect cancer at earlier stages than before. Another interesting process called pharmacogenomics ensures increased efficacy of medication during treatments, by investigating the impact of genes on medication. Hence assuring doctors what medications will complement the individuals body system and increase recovery rates. Genomics is at the forefront to permeate change for the health care, healthtech and medtech industry, catalyzing them to up the ante time and again.

The Human Genome Project commenced in the 1990s and was successful in furnishing the understanding of genomes, genetics and development of future technologies that would help to delve deeper into the study.  People were supportive in offering their samples to propel studies, innovations, conclusions and establish solutions to ease the pain of mankind. Today as individuals agree to share their genetic information with health authorities and governments for scrutiny and experimentation, concerns of over data privacy and protection cannot be ignored. The question of ethics and morality is certainly raised. Hence it is increasing imperative for all stakeholders around the world to collaborate to create a framework and regulations, in order to protect data and eschew sharing of information to third parties.

Genomics will bring about substantial disruption for the insurance industry, as they are abstained from underwriting genetic results of individuals in multiple countries. Furthermore, consumers are perturbed and reluctant about sharing genetic information because of its likely impact on their eligibility for insurance cover. It is plausible some individuals will perhaps deny genetics testing as a whole. The need of the moment is to recruit genetic experts and counselors or train physicians and certify them to implement accurate analysis and interpretation of results.

In addition if laws in the future permit insurers to access genetic information or provide genetic testing services for individuals (permitted in certain countries) they have immense onus to ensure confidentiality, privacy and protection of data. Not to miss no matter what the results showcase or diagnose post policy agreement, it is unlikely to have an impact on their policy. Hence as genetic testing augments amongst the population, insurers and governments may corroborate incorporating it in their policy product portfolio to benefit all the parties and increase life expectancy of individuals. Embracing social and economic change is imperative. Amidst of the developments healthtech and medtech is destined to benefit from genomics unlocking its power to deliver phenomenal products and services.

Starry eyed investors watch genomic firms with awe as these next revolutionaries reshape the health and pharma industry. However, an analysis of the ethical implications of supporting and investing in these firms is crucial. Let’s consider a few schools of thoughts. A social investor will be thrilled to take a bold step of investing in genomics firms as they intend to cure fatal diseases by identifying the root cause, to prevent it and provide accurate and personalized medication. Investors complying to socially responsible investing (SRI) may not hesitate to invest in them based on their particular values or belief systems. For instance an investor who has witnessed the sorrowful event of a near one struggling with a fatal disease. However whilst investors may view advancements from the emotional lens they are required to remain judicious in their decision taking and ascertain implications (be it ethical or social) before arriving at conclusions. Genomics is a megatrend that is implausible to ignore, they require as much investment, funds and grants as possible, to have a microscopic view into the layers of biology and uncover several mysteries of the human body.

It is incredibly mindboggling the advance in genomics. However an interesting aspect to increase life expectancy is being contemplated by few firms. Google’s ‘Calico’ a life science company aims to fight fatal diseases and believe it or not aging and death. In the September edition of Times Magazine 2013, on the cover appeared a hysterical question is Google endeavoring into solving death? Achieving immortality is definitely a controversial, ghastly and extremely far-fetched thought. Albeit renowned business owners and elite such as Jeff Bezos, Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Peter Thiel are enthusiastic supporters of projects like these. Nonetheless let’s explore some unconventional and unbelievable projects that aim to expand life expectancy and conquer death.

Cryonics is a process in which the deceased’s body is preserved post being dipped in liquid nitrogen. It is believed that the body can be brought back to life as science and technology advances. Sounds absolutely creepy! Zombie alert?  Stem cells (usually located in the umbilical cord) are preserved by the process of cryopreservation which will eventually be utilized to regenerate organs via 3-D printing. Longevity pills are another take on increasing life expectancy. Nanobots (nanotechnology) will imbibe the ability to conduct treatments (improve organ health or combat infections) after being injected in the human body. Cybernetics is a fanciful process that intends to upload a copy of the mind in robotic bodies, digital avatars, holograms so they remain virtually immortal. A baffling process is the infusion of young blood into to old bodies, apparently a technique to curb aging, though this process is banned.

All these potential inventions may sound enticing and captivating to some.  Perhaps humans may inculcate the ability to live longer still there is no guarantee they will attain immortality. Science may defeat diseases but humans will remain susceptible to death because of accidents or natural calamities. Ethical concerns come to light, if humans no longer age, the cycle of nature will truly be challenged. The unintended resultants will be overcrowding and surge in disparities/ inequality (only the rich having access to immortality) crafting an unimaginable world. Humans may perhaps become mechanical subsequent to robots. Earth may only be predominantly inhabited by the youthful population.

In tandem to depiction in sci-fi movies that enforce imagination of time standing still or humans not aging after a certain age eg: In time.  The aging or dependent population would not be apparent, possibly these concepts would become extinct. The expanding environmental burden may explode one day taking the lead to attain equilibrium probably destroying human civilization. Or the elite may find refuge in space and exist forever. Definitely this imagination is hyperbolic in nature. What the future entails is impossible to predict in one’s wildest dreams. None the less it’s in the hands of all stakeholders to decide a threshold towards these extraordinary innovations.

In conclusion it is evidently plausible that genomics will open up new avenues to defeat fatal diseases by identifying miraculous cures in the coming decades. All stakeholders are required to cooperate and collaborate to establish robust frameworks to maintain morality and ethics. Furthermore essentially work hand in hand to generate mutual benefit in the coming years. Increasing life expectancy via genomics seems conceivable whilst the vision to achieve immortality is clearly an exaggerated and far-fetched idea/decision with its added negatives. Only time can reveal how humans and the world will appear in the coming decades.


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