The COVID-19 pandemic brought anxiety and uncertainty worldwide, and also created challenges from social isolation to supply chain issues to economic instability, which worsened gender equality.
But an upside: “COVID showed us science is limitless but only when we limit science less,” said BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, opening the second day of the 2022 BIO International Convention.
“The future of biotech is limitless, that’s a fact,” said Johan Verbeeck, DVM Vice President, Business Development, Oncology at Johnson & Johnson, who sponsored the session. “Finally coming together after a long pandemic is a true testament to the extraordinary cooperation and boundless innovation of some of the world’s leading researchers.”
The second day of the 2022 BIO International Convention opened with a new concept called BIO Unbound, featuring “disruptive thinkers and doers with audacious ideas about mortality, security, and science as a force for good and for social change,” as Seema Kumar, VP of Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson, put it.
‘The last 50 years of your life can be just as amazing as the first 50 years’
Are aging and death inevitable? Probably – but maybe not.
One of the most notable speakers was perhaps Laura Deming, a venture capitalist and founder of The Longevity Fund, which invests in technology aimed at life expectancy extension and reversing the effects of age-related diseases.
During her TED-style talk, she shared how “high school popularity” – or lack thereof – led her to her calling. At 12 years old, she sent an email to the University of San Francisco’s Cynthia Kenyon, now vice president of aging research at Calico in San Francisco – which launched her own journey to investing in aging research as a teenager.
Today, 4 of the of the 6 companies she invested in as a teenager IPO’ed at $100 million, while one peaked at $3 billion – and the future of aging research is just beginning.
“The last 50 years of your life can be just as amazing as your first 50 years of life,” Deming concludes.
Why stability requires gender equality
Dr. Alaa Murabit, a UN Sustainable Development Goal Advocate who is now at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, shared that the most significant factor in state stability is not GDP, but the rights of women – including access to health and education and reproductive rights.
“Absence of power means absence of choice,” she said.
We need to limit science less
Wrapping up BIO Unbound, Dr. McMurry-Heath was joined by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, a physician, biologist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning, who said biotech is at the precipice of innovation – and the power of breakthroughs is transforming the world.
“Science can be a great equalizer,” she said.