A life-sciences revolution is unfolding as scientists unlock the secrets in our genes.
This transformation will likely be more consequential, and fraught with danger and moral dilemma, than the physics and digital revolutions of the last century. Even though it seems far into the future, it is important for investors to be aware of the implications and opportunities presented by gene editing. AMG National Trust convened a group to discuss these points during a webinar on November 4.
Best-Selling Author; Acclaimed Historian and Journalist; and Professor of History, Tulane University Walter Isaacson was joined in a wide-ranging discussion of the latest genetic discoveries and research, and its implications for investors, by AMG Chairman Earl Wright; AMG board member Chris Hill, (ambassador to Serbia nominee); and Chris Jacoby, AMG senior vice president—private capital.
Humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years. Think crossbred fruit like tangelos or hybrid dogs like labradoodles. But that is nothing compared to what’s coming thanks to discoveries like CRISPR technology, a gene-editing technique developed a decade ago. Isaacson’s book on the subject, The Codebreaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. Doudna and her research partner Emmanuelle Charpentier won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on CRISPR technology.
CRISPR, an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is an immune response that bacteria have been using for 3 billion years to combat viral infections. Basically, according to Isaacson, bacteria take “mug shots” of invading viruses’ DNA or RNA, remember them and then sends enzymes, or “scissors,” to cut them out when encountered again.
Doudna and Charpentier developed a quick and easy way to use CRISPR to alter DNA and RNA sequences in cells, or in other instances turn on or off DNA without altering its sequence. The technology is changing the world.
Physics discoveries in the 20th Century unlocked the power of the atom but also gave us nuclear bombs. In the past five decades, digital advances created computers, smart phones and social media, while also unleashing cyber warfare and shrinking personal privacy.
In this new age, biological revelations may allow us to cure diseases, improve agricultural yields and perhaps end dependence on petrochemicals, but it could also bring genetically modified “super soldiers,” as Russian leader Vladimir Putin has suggested.
Business and investment opportunities will multiply exponentially as researchers and entrepreneurs rush to innovate new products and processes, as well as create companies and industries, just as they did during earlier tech revolutions. In that rush, we all must address the ethical and moral dilemmas new technologies inevitably bring.
CRISPR is just one of many technological breakthroughs that have led to several investment opportunities. Explore some examples reflected in AMG’s private investment strategies via the Cupola venture funds, and learn about AMG’s Alternative Investments.