Magazine Article | December 7, 2017

Back To The Future

Source: Life Science Leader

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

The sci-fi movie classic Back To The Future came out about a month after my high school graduation — a time when I was very focused on my future (which seemed so bright I had to wear shades – ba-dum-bum-CHING). In Back To The Future II, released shortly after my graduation from college, movie characters Marty McFly and Doc Brown time travel to Oct. 21, 2015, when, supposedly, we’d have a host of crazy new technologies and products. While the movie did miss on its prediction of the Cubs winning the World Series (by one year) and a few other things (e.g., flying cars), it proved pretty accurate on some of its other forecasts, such as personal drones, tablets, mobile payment technology, biometric devices, and smart clothing, just to name a few.

I admit I have always taken pleasure in pondering what the future might hold and thus relish opportunities to watch TED Talks or read books by futurists like Ray Kurzweil. So when John Cumbers, Ph.D., and Karl Schmieder asked if I’d be willing to preview their book, What’s Your Bio Strategy? prior to publication, I was all in. The book interviews 25 innovators about what the future may hold and the important role to be played by biologics — beyond just drugs. For instance, I learned about Modern Meadow, which is growing leather without using an animal; Glowee, which is developing living lighting energy via bioluminescence; Ginko Bioworks, which is engineering crops that can fertilize themselves; and Bolt Threads, which is harnessing proteins found in nature to create fibers and fabrics and has already produced a spider silk tie. The book also discusses concepts such as using DNA for data storage, how the future of fashion may reside in garments being grown in vats (i.e., biofabrication), and oh so much more.

One of the people interviewed in the book is biopharmaceutical billionaire, R.J. Kirk, the CEO of Intrexon, a company that has dazzled us with nonbrowning apples, cloned kittens, and genetically modified mosquitoes to fight the Zika virus. Kirk is but one of an unparalleled number of biopharmaceutical industry thought leaders participating in this year’s annual outlook issue. From the biggest of Big Pharma (Alex Gorsky, CEO of J&J), to generic powerhouses (Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan), and just about everything in between, this year’s CEO outlook feature is bigger, better, and more diverse than ever. Our manufacturing outlook article alone has 10 thought leaders taking part. And while we are thrilled to have CDER director Dr. Janet Woodcock involved this year, we are grateful to all the manufacturing executives who honored their commitment to take part, despite the adversity many continue to face following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of biopharmaceutical operations in Puerto Rico. We hope you enjoy this year’s outlook issue and look forward to your feedback on what we can do to make next year’s even better.