Some say as much new research is getting added on in the previous two years as the entire period before that. The cost of sequencing a genome has dropped below $1,000, a stunning drop from $2 billion level less than two decades ago. This cost will keep dropping. It is estimated that more than a billion people will soon supply the world's databases with their genomic and phenotypic information to carry out correlations that educate us about gene variants and their linkage to diseases — and even lifestyles. Artificial intelligence will aggregate learnings to rapidly help find druggable protein targets at a pace never seen before.
The European Medicines Agency was rapidly emerging as a science-driven regulatory body that, along with the FDA, was the world's authority in assessing and approving innovation. Now, with Brexit causing confusion to the London-based EMA, the FDA has again emerged preeminent, like it was before the EMA was founded 23 years ago. Fortunately, the FDA is showing its determination to modernize and change. In 2017 we saw 46 new product approvals, about double the pace 10 years earlier.
Already, every 10 years, we are adding about two years to wellness and longevity. That will get even better. For example, we may find very early biomarkers, maybe 15 years earlier, to identify people at risk for Alzheimer's so they can take proactive measures. These biomarkers could be sophisticated PET scans or new approaches, such as using A.I. technology. Once the condition becomes predictable at an early stage, approaches could be deployed to prevent or mitigate the inflammatory cascade that is associated with Alzheimer's.
This Fifth Revolution, which I predict will start in the next decade, will make this century the Life Sciences Century for Mankind. We will succeed in taming biology and making it into a more predictable science that can be harnessed, similar to the way the previous four industrial revolutions harnessed the physical and mechanical sciences.
As the Fifth Industrial revolution unfolds, the pace of human development will accelerate. More and more of us will be living longer and living better.
We have a lot to look forward to in the decades ahead.
Commentary by Fred Hassan, chairman of Caret Group and an advisory board member for Healthy Returns, CNBC's new health-care innovation conference that will take place on March 28, 2018, in New York City.
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