How Tech is Changing Healthcare

From rapid development and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines to the science of isolation, machine-learning-enabled gene editing and digitised medicine.

We’re in an exponential revolution in genomics, George Church told the audience at WIRED Health 2021. “The human genome originally cost three billion dollars and wasn’t that clinically useful. In just a decade, we’ve improved 20-million-fold in terms of cost and a 100,000-fold in terms of quality.” This revolution, according to Church, is mostly thanks to the technique of molecular multiplexing. “It can be used for cells, for reading and writing of all sorts of biology,” he said. “One example of that on everybody’s mind is gene editing, which is mostly what CRISPR does. There are many different enzymes involved, but the key is the delivery of these enzymes to the right cells in the right location in the genome.”

These new genetic editing techniques allow, for instance, to eliminate most viruses. “One strategy for getting rid of all viruses is by codon recoding,” he said. “Taking one or two codon and completely remapping them to a synonymous one.” Church presented research showing the benefits to such recoded organisms. “This is a way whereby making a large number of changes in the genome makes you resistant to nearly all viruses,” he said. “We’re now on our way to applying this to multiple organisms and all viruses. We think it’s generalisable to any organism.”

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