By Bill Studebaker, President and CIO, ROBO Global, for IRIS.xyz
At long last, the healthcare industry is undergoing a massive transformation. It’s a past-due shift in an area that seemed to remain stagnant for decades, even as the world around it evolved at a rapid pace. But new technologies are finally making change possible, moving from a healthcare model focused on caring for the sick to one that is focused on prediction, prevention, and the eradication of disease. The expected result: a longer lifespan—as well as a plethora of new investment opportunities for those interested in making the most of an area that is likely to see one of the biggest boons from the robotics and AI revolution.
According to a recent analysis by Bank of America, companies who are delivering solutions aimed at increasing the human lifespan represent one of the biggest investment opportunities of the next decade, with the market expected to be worth at least $600B by 2025. At the core of that opportunity sits a confluence of innovations that are all working together to expand the average human lifespan to 100 years and beyond. Artificial intelligence, Big Data, and robotics are giving physicians the ability to deliver faster, more accurate diagnoses, to better manage patient drug interactions, to improve patient outcomes via robot-assisted surgeries, and to monitor critical health statistics from anywhere using wearable healthcare devices. But perhaps the most extreme example of how technology is enabling longer life is genome science.
Genome science: customizing the care of the human body
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In fact, when it comes to increasing the human lifespan, there is no doubt that genome science holds the greatest promise in the history of medicine. By providing the information we need to effectively replenish, replace, and repair the human body, human genome sequencing seems to be the key to effectively “curing” the disease we call aging. At a very high level, here’s how genome sequencing works:
The body’s genome sequence is a series of 3.2 billion letters that define the characteristics of every individual. Genome sequencing is the process of determining the complete DNA sequence of each person’s genome. That sequence dictates not only what you look like, but also what your body needs to function at its greatest capacity. By understanding your genome sequence, you can understand what foods you should eat, what exercise is best for your body, and how your organs will respond to a particular drug. Your genome sequence can also reveal what illnesses you are susceptible to and, even more importantly, how to best prevent disease in your unique body.
Scientists began to uncover the potential of genome sequencing decades ago, but only recently has the process become accurate enough, fast enough, and cheap enough to make it feasible for practical use in a healthcare setting. The implications are incredible. Using human genome sequencing, it is now possible to identity the genetic mutations that cause abnormal or inadequate protein production in a person’s genes—or DNA—and to pinpoint as many as 6,000 genetic disorders. Spotting those mutations requires researchers to compare the individual’s genome sequence to a baseline.
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It took years for researchers to sequence 99% of the human genome—the all-important baseline for that comparison. The initial cost of the project: $2.7B. But analysts Felix Tran and Haim Israel recently reported that “genomic sequencing costs have fallen 99.999% since 2003,” enabling “a new frontier in precision medicine to further extend life expectancy.” That promise has healthcare companies scrambling to profit from this game-changer in preventative medicine.
Today’s indisputable market gorilla in the space is Illumina
While the list of players is sure to grow in the years to come, these are just some of the names that should be on every investor’s list of companies to watch. As the reach of human genome sequencing continues to advance, those who invest early in the game will not only be helping scientists better predict, prevent, and eradicate disease—they will also be bolstering their own investment portfolios to better support that longer, healthier life that genome science promises to deliver.