Futurists have touted the 21st century as the century of biology
primarily due to the potential of genomics. That potential is based on
anticipated revolutions. These revolutions present themselves in many
fashions. Revolutions: Paving the Way for the Bioeconomy is an in-depth look at these revolutions.
Genomics researchers hope to launch personalized medicine and cure diseases by identifying drug targets and create novel therapies such as DNA vaccines by discovering gene variants that are risk factors called biomarkers. This new approach to medicine will ideally provide a boost to the biotechnology industry. So far, genomics has provided new tools for conducting biological research and more powerful tools for managing and interpreting data (bioinformatics). Synthetic genomics more commonly known as synthetic biology is poised to emerge as the next industrial revolution.
We are currently amidst a Kuhnian (scientific) revolution brought about primarily through discoveries in genomics. A Kuhnian revolution describes a change in how a majority of scientists view the world. By revolutionizing biology and medical research, genomics has provided scientists with a new understanding of the concept of a gene. It has provided a systems approach to the experimental design of research. Using DNA, evolutionary anthropologists have demonstrated that in addition to genes and the environment, culture and technology also contribute to phenotypes.
Although Darwin was unable to provide a mechanism for evolution via natural selection, science historians credit him with making evolution a believable concept. Genomics and synthetic biology are currently facing regulatory policy issues in the areas of risk assessment, intellectual property, and bioethics. Whether or not citizens reap the social goods and economic benefits from these industrial revolutions will depend on the actions taken by activists, lobbyists, scientists, and the government. To receive the social goods and economic benefits from genomics and synthetic biology, public acceptance is critical. It is important that the public understands and accepts that culture and technology have played an important role in what makes us human.
Using genomics to discover potential treatments and subsequent cures for diseases is more complex than originally thought. Without genomics providing a proof of concept for medical cures, a paradigm shift for understanding diseases, consequently an economic (Schumpeterian) revolution in the pharmaceutical industry has yet to occur. Synthetic biology has provided revived optimism.