There have been groundbreaking advancements in genetic engineering and new medical technologies are poised to disrupt the dialogue on health, ethics, global security, and the future of humanity. We explored these disruptive technologies at OODAcon 2023, such as the revolutionary CRISPR gene-editing tool, breakthroughs in synthetic biology, and the emergence of exponential medical treatments that demonstrate rapid adoption properties.
In this OODAcon 2023 session, Natalie Barrett, Phaedrus Engineering, Biomedical Engineer, Marc Salit, MITRE Fellow, Synthetic Biology, and Andre Watson, CEO, Ligandal, Biomaterials Scientist, shared the following really actionable and forward thinking insights.
Summary of the Panel Discussion
“Understanding protein structures can have a wide range of practical applications…these technologies can contribute to advancements in fields such as space exploration, material science, and human augmentation.”
Device Data, Corporeal Data, and Wearables: We are transmitting many different datasets – from our phone and our DNA – with the potential for predictive capabilities by way of innovative new wearable “form factors” – of which biology will play a role in creating new bio materials for input/output on new surfaces and for the human body. For example, genetics has already intersected with space exploration and wearables to address the biological and physiological demands of space. The potential of Neuralink for human augmentation was also highlighted.
What do business leaders need to know about Hacking Humans and the Genetic Frontier?: The transmission of diverse datasets in the genetics computational ecosystem will create immense Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) opportunities. Additionally, business leaders should understand that biology is a way to create various products. There is a growing demand for genetic advancements in space exploration and bio-related fields. Technologies like Neuralink and mRNA and material science will continue to play a significant roles in human augmentation, healthcare, and sustainability.
DeepMind’s Alphafold and other contributors to the protein model datasets are significant advancements in the field of bioinformatics and protein structure prediction: These technologies enable the creation of three-dimensional models of proteins, providing valuable insights into their structure and function. Business leaders should be aware of the potential applications and implications of these advancements. Understanding protein structures can have a wide range of practical applications, including drug discovery, personalized medicine, and designing enzymes for industrial purposes. Furthermore, these technologies can contribute to advancements in fields such as space exploration, material science, and human augmentation. However, it is important for business leaders to stay updated on the latest developments and challenges in this field, as there are still unsolved problems and areas of research. Overall, business leaders should recognize the potential impact of these technologies on various industries and consider how they can leverage them to drive innovation and solve complex problems.
“…biology is seen as a promising platform for distributed manufacturing and copying processes. The integration of biology with other fields such as material science, AI, and cybersecurity can further advance solutions in this domain.”
The Implications of Material Science: Material science is the discipline which will touch all other exponential technological innovation and industry sectors – i.e., new materials for:
- Batteries for energy storage and as power sources for electric autonomous vehicles and the infrastructure needed for the future of mobility
- The semiconductor innovation required for the exponentially growth of computational demands of for artificial intelligence, digital twins, and the metaverse; and
- Innovative 3D Printing techniques and Additive Manufacturing.
- Also see: Five Exciting Breakthroughs in Materials Science
So to with the central role material science innovation will play in biotech and genetics and medical technologies – and vice versa, as a whole new class of biomaterials emerge from novel bioengineering techniques and breakthroughs which are , technically, material science techniques and breakthroughs as well.
As a brief conversational aside during this discussion, the downside of material science was briefly discussed: microplastics, for example, are small plastic particles that pose environmental and health concerns. Understanding the impact of microplastics on ecosystems and human health is crucial for businesses operating in industries that rely on or contribute to plastic waste. Additionally, leaders should be mindful of the growing issue of food stock. This includes being aware of potential contamination of food with microplastics and the need for sustainable practices in food production and packaging.
The problem with biology is that while we have the command line, connecting the keyboard to 30 billion different cells poses a challenge: This issue highlights the complexity of integrating biological systems with external control mechanisms. Currently, there is ongoing research and innovation in areas such as synthetic biology, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine to address this challenge. However, tinkering with the code in organisms can make them more unstable, requiring careful consideration of stability and safety. Additionally, the field of biology faces difficulties in terms of intellectual property protection and supply chain adaptability. Despite these challenges, biology is seen as a promising platform for distributed manufacturing and copying processes. The integration of biology with other fields such as material science, AI, and cybersecurity can further advance solutions in this domain.
“Business model innovation and value propositions will emerge from computational architectures designed to uniquely service this emerging industry sector.”
The genetic frontier is expected to advance at a hyper-exponential pace in the 2030s, with gene therapy and regenerative medicine techniques playing a significant role: These advancements include revolutionary tools like CRISPR gene editing, breakthroughs in synthetic biology, and rapid adoption of medical treatments. Gene therapy and regenerative medicine have the potential to address health concerns, disrupt ethical discussions, and impact global security. Moreover, biology is seen as a way to create various products, and it is considered the “ultimate distributed manufacturing platform”. However, there are challenges such as the difficulty of intellectual property protection in biology and cybersecurity concerns related to DNA designs. Overall, the genetic frontier is poised for rapid progress, and gene therapy and regenerative medicine techniques will likely have a transformative impact in the 2030s.
The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology:…refers to the process by which genetic information flows within a cell. It involves the conversion of DNA into mRNA, which then serves as a template for protein synthesis. This concept is fundamental in understanding how genetic information is stored, transcribed, and translated.
Computing architectures and basic biology concepts: It was noted that many people lack knowledge about computing architectures and basic biology concepts, pointing to the need for education in these areas. The discussion also touched on the distributed manufacturing potential of biology and the challenges of intellectual property in the field. Additionally, the session explored the adaptable supply chain in bio-related industries, highlighting examples such as innovative materials in diapers and enzymes in laundry detergents. Business model innovation and value propositions will emerge from computational architectures designed to uniquely service this emerging industry sector. Overall, the discussion shed light on the intersection of computing architecture and basic bio concepts, emphasizing the need for awareness and education in these fields.
“It is…important to consider the complexities of working with biology, such as the difficulty of intellectual property protection and the need for safeguards when combining AI and bioengineering.”
Biology is considered the ultimate distributed manufacturing platform due to its potential in various fields: The concept of biology as a distributed manufacturing platform involves utilizing DNA and RNA to create bioengineered materials that have application in a variety of new and existing markets and industry sectors. This approach has economic implications and is already integrated into the economy. However, there are challenges in terms of intellectual property and supply chain adaptability in biology. Additionally, there are also cybersecurity concerns related to DNA designs when tinkering with organisms. Overall, biology’s distributed manufacturing capabilities offer immense potential for innovation and “Platform Economy” ecosystems, economies of scale, interoperability, XaaS offerings, and proprietary and open-source applications. It is imporant to remember that business model innovative and creative value proposition designs are equally as important as the general application technology itself.
Bio-carbon Conversion and Biofoundry Services will impact your bottom line: The discussion emphasized the significance of bio-carbon conversion and bio foundry services:
Biocarbon Conversion refers to the process of utilizing biology for the transformation of carbon-based materials into other useful products. It is seen as a way to make various substances and has applications in fields such as space exploration, material science, and regenerative medicine. This conversion can be achieved through techniques like gene therapy and the manipulation of DNA. Biocarbon conversion has the potential to impact various industries, including manufacturing, supply chain, and food sources.
Bio Foundry Services refer to services related to the field of synthetic biology and genetic engineering. These services involve the use of biology as a manufacturing platform and the manipulation of genetic material for various applications. Bio foundries enable the creation of new materials, development of innovative products, and advancements in fields like space exploration and healthcare. They utilize technologies like predictive modeling, 3D protein structure analysis, and gene therapy techniques. Additionally, bio foundries have the potential to impact supply chain innovation and address challenges related to food security and biosecurity.
These bioengineering technology platforms and services will have a significant economic impact, acting as general purpose technology platforms that service a variety of industry sectors. However, there are concerns regarding cybersecurity and the stability of organisms when tinkering with their genetic code. It is also important to consider the complexities of working with biology, such as the difficulty of intellectual property protection and the need for safeguards when combining AI and bioengineering. Overall, it is important to understand and leverage the potential of genetic frontier technologies to have far-reaching impact on various industries and business models.
“Microbial factories utilize techniques like gene therapy, regenerative medicine, and DNA manipulation to engineer microorganisms for specific purposes.”
Biology is often referred to as the ultimate copy machine: It has the ability to replicate and reproduce living organisms, making it a powerful mechanism for creating new life forms. DNA serves as the blueprint for copying genetic information, and the process of transcription from DNA to mRNA further facilitates the replication of genetic material. The potential of biology as a copy machine is evident in various fields, such as gene therapy, regenerative medicine, and synthetic biology. However, there are challenges associated with intellectual property and supply chain management in biology. Additionally, cybersecurity concerns arise when manipulating DNA designs. Despite these challenges, biology’s role as a copy machine is being harnessed in practical applications, including NASA’s food source innovations and the development of innovative materials in industries like diapers and laundry detergents. In summary, biology’s ability to replicate and copy genetic information makes it a powerful and versatile tool for various scientific and industrial applications, making it “the ultimate copy machine”.
“Microbial Factory Tools” Explained: Microbial factory tools refer to a set of tools and techniques used in synthetic biology and biotechnology. These tools enable scientists to manipulate and engineer microorganisms to produce desired products or perform specific functions. They leverage the capabilities of microorganisms to serve as mini factories for the production of various substances, such as biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals. The field of synthetic biology aims to design and construct new biological systems by combining genetic elements from different organisms. Microbial factories utilize techniques like gene therapy, regenerative medicine, and DNA manipulation to engineer microorganisms for specific purposes. They offer potential in areas such as carbon conversion, distributed manufacturing, and supply chain innovation. However, there are challenges associated with controlling the stability and security of modified organisms, raising concerns about biosecurity and cybersecurity. Overall, microbial factory tools provide a promising avenue for biotechnological advancements and have already found applications in various industries.
“…proactive measures need to be put in place to tackle the emergence of newfangled data management, IT supply chain, and network vulnerabilities unique to bioengineering.”
AI, bioengineering, and the need for safeguards: The “technosocial critique” of bioengineering raises various concerns, some of which have already been mentioned in this summary in a different context, including:
- The exponential growth of gene therapy and regenerative medicine techniques in the 2030s is seen as a concern;
- The difficulty in maintaining intellectual property rights in biology and the adaptability of the supply chain are notable issues;
- Cybersecurity implications, including the need for safeguards and countermeasures, was emphasized; and
- The potential for bad actors to develop bioengineering technologies without detection raises concerns.
These concerns underscore the need for careful consideration of the societal, ethical, and security implications of bioengineering advancements.
The future of biodefense involves foresight and planning to determine future threats – and countermeasures: It is important to consider the intersection of biology and technology: there is the positive potential for gene therapy, regenerative medicine techniques, and microbial factory tools which the panelists have mentioned – existing alongside the inevitable unintended consequences, cognitive biases and failures of imagination – as bad actors weaponize the same technology as a function of the democratization and redistribution of power through advantageous technological capabilties. Overall, biodefense requires comprehensive planning and technological advancements to inform threat intelligence assessments – and proactive measures need to be put in place to tackle the emergence of newfangled data management, IT supply chain, and network vulnerabilities unique to bioengineering.
“…it is very clear that the lab machines are simply not properly protected – at all – at the technology, software, data and network level, but also just the vulnerability of the hardware and the lack of security measures of the labs themselves. This also needs to be addressed by the industry.”
The genetic frontier, with advancements in genetic engineering and medical technologies such as CRISPR gene-editing and synthetic biology, raises cybersecurity concerns: The cybersecurity implications of the use of genetic information and the implementation of cyber solutions is crucial – such as the protection of DNA designs – along with the inevitable expansion of the threat surface and threat vectors in the bioengineering data infrastructure. One panelists noted that the FBI has received over 2000 reports of Chinese hacking activity directed at bioengineering datasets.
The idea of a “Cyber Monitoring Model” was floated by a panelist: The emphasis would be on on the real-time monitoring of the use of DNA designs: identifying those who alter them and tracking users to ensure the security and integrity of the genetic data and the personally identifiable information (PII) of patients and “customers” interfacing with this marketplace.
The Physical Layer is vulnerable as well: Andre Watson offered the following perspective: “I am not a penetration tester, but I have been in many, many labs where it is very clear that the lab machines are simply not properly protected – at all – at the technology, software, data and network level, but also just the vulnerability of the hardware and the lack of security measures of the labs themselves. This also needs to be addressed by the industry.”
“One key point was the potential of biology as a means to create or enhance current products.”
This emerging field’s open-source, distibuted computational model wants to maintain its security while also maintaining its highly collaborative “open” innovation culture – while making it easier for stakeholders to implement cyber solutions: It is crucial to address these business culture and business models implications to safeguard against potential risks and protect the integrity of the vast amount of genetic information which will be exponentially captured and stored in service to bioengineering innovation in the next ten to twenty years.
Biology has significant implications across various fields through application in product innovation: One key point was the potential of biology as a means to create or enhance current products. The application of synthetic biology is already integrated into the economy, for example, with NASA’s work with a private diaper company (diapers made of safe materials) and Proctor & Gamble’s Tide Product (for enhancing the softness of fabrics) mentioned as case studies.
For the program notes for this session, see Hacking Humans – The New Genetic Frontiers.
The full agenda for OODacon 2023 can be found here – Welcome to OODAcon 2023: Final Agenda and Event Details – including a a full description of each session, expanded speakers bios (with links to current projects and articles about the speakers) and additional OODA Loop resources on the theme of each panel.
OODAcon 2023: Event Summary and Imperatives For Action
Download a summary of OODAcon including useful observations to inform your strategic planning, product roadmap and drive informed customer conversations.
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