The most exciting - and world-changing - developments of the coming decades are likely to be in biological engineering
What will be the most exciting and essential companies or brands in 2035? They probably don’t even exist yet, but there’s a good chance that, when they do come, they will be operating in the areas of digital health, genetic engineering, nutraceuticals, or possibly immortality itself.
An accelerated advancement in the field of systems biology is what is behind all this, with millions of dollars of venture capitalist funding flooding into life sciences. There are now as many as 12 Bio schools at Stanford alone.
Untapping the possibilities
Genetic engineering is probably the area of systems biology about which the general public has most awareness. One of its sets of tools is CRISPR, a genome-editing system that enables scientists to change the expression of genes in living cells.
The ability to do this could mean the elimination of all kinds of genetic diseases or alteration of DNA in a way that becomes permanently sealed in the germ line, and therefore inheritable by future generations. It could mean the modification of future humans.
There is a lot of research at a microbial level. Combining synthetic biology and methods for deciphering bacterial communication could lead to the creation of designer microbial services. Teams at Princeton University are investigating the ways in which bacteria use chemical signals to co-ordinate group behaviour.
So it could be that we put bacteria to work, using them in a co-ordinated fashion (like swarms of bugs) to break down materials, rebalance our environment or distribute medication at a cellular level.
Biology, of course, includes the brain, and research is ongoing into linking brains to one another, or even linking together many of them. Such networked brains could perform tasks we can’t even imagine today, but the "hive mind" is a real possibility.