Biology and I : Coming of Age

If you are someone who’s learnt to tinker with Biology, now is the time for you.

Except for those living under a rock, the last year has been a crash course in “virus”, “microbe”, “DNA”, “RNA”, “protein”, “performance trials”, “efficacy”, “regulatory”, “manufacturing”, “production ramp up”, “Intellectual Property” etc … - terminology that biotechnologists/biologists eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now, your mom, aunt, uber driver and hair dresser are all speaking the same language. 2020/2021 has been a coming of age of biology – its prowess and its perils.

Here’s what my mind mulls over as the sector swells and grows in strength,

  1. For bio-manufacturing to come of age, the flywheel of “Design-Engineer-Test- Analyze” needs to get efficient and easier. While a lot of money has gone into this space recently, the tools will and need to be commoditized further.
  2. Biology is inherently variable. If its inherent variability stops, evolution would stop. BUT, for bio-manufacturing we need well-controlled and consistent systems. Once we understand how to control/address this dichotomy, scaling of biological solutions will happen significantly faster than what it is now. This will enable us to go from grams/month to tons/day of production sooner, thereby enhancing manufacturing ramp up.
  3. Life is evolved to be communal. Bacteria draws strength when it is present as communities. Recent studies show that our microbial gut variability may be lower now than our ancestors (whole new topic for another day!). Learning how to generate, manage and scale bacterial communities as opposed to single cultures will help overcome some fundamental challenges with production and scaling.
  4. The current pandemic has clearly taught us that microbes don’t respect man-made boundaries. Medical communities have worked together to develop surgical protocols. Software communities have worked together to establish security protocols. Biotech community has to come together to establish sterility and security protocols. This is key for us to know and understand how to regulate what we call “national biodiversity”.

Biology has recently attracted a lot of investment capital based on the potential of what can be. As companies like String scale and build market traction, I am very curious to see what solutions we come up with to handle the above.

Author: Dr.Ezhil Subbian

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