Synthetic biology: A tech trend that will change the world by 2025

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September 18, 2019

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Following on from last year’s event, PwC Australia and the Churchill Club Inc hosted four technologists who debated what they believed would be the non-obvious top tech trends to have an explosive impact on society in the next three to five years. Here’s where they landed.

#1 Biology as we’ve never seen it before

Synthetic biology is a rapidly accelerating market, with an estimated conservative global valuation of around US $14 billion. To polymath hacker and explorer JJ Hastings, the ability to produce fast, efficient and customisable materials enabled by machine learning and computer-aided design will change the world with an array of entirely new, advanced materials.

The extraordinary is now possible: producing spider silk without spiders, egg proteins without chickens and fragrances without flowers. These materials can now be produced by renewable feedstock, reducing the need for large scale agricultural bases or energy-intensive manufacturing. The predicted impact of biomanufacturing drew US$1.7 billion in 2017 investment alone. Synthetic biology companies are partnering with fashion designers, heavily backed by VC dollars, as well as forming ‘organism foundries’.

But while the growth of the market has been remarkable, Hastings says its true impact has not yet been seen. The era of AI now upon us will rapidly increase the pace of discovery, and produce materials not seen in nature, through extrapolation and generative design. For example, generating tens of thousands of molecular designs to fight fibrosis, screen them, synthesise them and validate new drugs in just 50 days — 15 times faster than a traditional pipeline.

Soon, AI will utilise its learning of the natural world to make guided inferences which produce entirely new materials. AI and biomanufacturing, says Hastings, offers an acceleration in the production and precision of novel biomolecules.

Three more technologies are discussed in this article published by PwC's Digital Pulse.

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