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Seeing Just the Beginning of BioEngineering

By Mike Adams

If COVID raised awareness of any science, it was biology and bioengineering. The two most prominent vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, were both made from mRNA (messenger RNA). Sixty years ago, we had not even identified the DNA molecule. Likewise, following the trial-and-error development of new drugs during the Second World War, the modern pharmaceutical industry was born.

It was not by much more than raw luck that Arthur Fleming found a cure to the Spanish Flu. When he left for vacation, he left the windows open. Upon his return there was a green mold in one of the petri dishes and “voila” – penicillin. It was Pfizer who first found a way to manufacture penicillin on a scale that allowed for widespread distribution, ultimately the catalyst for the creation of the modern pharmaceutical industry. But their discovery process was not that much different from Fleming. The big pharma companies automated the process and had libraries on 14 million organic- and non-organic molecules to run trial and error on drug targets, hoping to get a reaction.

This series of newsletters has been asking the question, “Is the COVID-19 pandemic the Pearl Harbor moment of our lifetime?” Coming out of World War II, there were dramatic changes in technology, demographics, and lifestyles. I believe that coming out of COVID, we will likewise see dramatic changes in technology, demographics, and lifestyles in the next decades that will be just as dramatic as the changes following Pearl Harbor.

If the 19th century was the century of chemistry, and the 20th century was the century of physics, then I posit that the 21st century will be the century of biology. In a COVID world, bioengineering has become ubiquitous with the healthcare field, but its applications reach far beyond medicine and vaccines.

There are private companies that are modifying a biological organism to make a plant-based cement. Another company is engineering an organism to produce a lumber from potato peelings. There are several companies re-engineering organisms to produce high-performance, biodegradable plastic from food waste.

There are companies that are actually producing DNA for use in food, flavors, and fragrances. If you look at a tube of toothpaste, there are four to six petrochemical products. Now companies can get those same chemicals from using engineered micro-organisms to convert food waste into equivalent replacements in toothpaste. The same processes can be used for fragrances and foods. It took bacteria millions of years to produce the oil that we drill out of the ground. These modified organisms can make the equivalent chemicals in days.

When I bought our first computers for business and home in the mid-1980s, I thought I had all the memory I would ever need. The business desktop had 100 megabytes of memory and the home computer had 60 megabytes. Both computers had Word, a spreadsheet program, and a database program. I was sure that was all I would ever need. I was young and dumb. It was not long before I ran out of memory, the computer slowed way down, and the number of new programs available exploded.

I believe we will see that with bioengineering in the coming decades. Bioengineering will touch every aspect of our lives, making life easier and more enjoyable. It will also create investment opportunities in the same way we have seen so many great investments in computer and related technology.

Article Written by: Mike Adams, President & Principal

Adams Financial Concepts LTD

1001 Fourth Ave, Suite 4330, Seattle WA 98011

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