Suddenly, It Looks Like We’re in a Golden Age for Medicine

Hype springs eternal in medicine, but lately the horizon of new possibility seems almost blindingly bright. “I’ve been running my research lab for almost 30 years,” says Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And I can say that throughout that period of time, I’ve just never experienced what we’re seeing over just the last five years.”

A Nobel laureate, Doudna is known primarily for Crispr, the gene-editing Swiss Army knife that has been called “a word processor” for the human genome and that she herself describes as “a technology that literally enables the rewriting of the code of life.” The work for which Doudna shared the Nobel Prize was published more than a decade ago, in 2012, opening up what seemed like an almost limitless horizon for Crispr-powered therapies and cures. But surveying the recent landscape of scientific breakthroughs, she says the last half-decade has been more remarkable still: “I think we’re at an extraordinary time of accelerating discoveries.”

The pandemic has exhausted many Americans of medicine, and it has become common to process the last few years as a saga of defeat and failure. And yet these brutal years — which brought more than a million American deaths and probably 20 million deaths worldwide, and seemed to return even the hypermodern citadels of the wealthy West to something like the experience of premodern plague — might also represent an unprecedented watershed of medical innovation. Beyond Crispr and Covid vaccines, there are countless potential applications of mRNA tools for other diseases; a new frontier for immunotherapy and next-generation cancer treatment; a whole new world of weight-loss drugs; new insights and drug-development pathways to chase with the help of machine learning; and vaccines heralded as game-changing for some of the world’s most intractable infectious diseases.




UC Berkeley / IGI



This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!