With a nonprofit foundation created by himself and his wife, Bill Gates has been busy for the past 20 years to improve global health. On February 15, 2020, at a leading US scientific meeting, he announced that advances in gene editing technology and artificial intelligence (AI) could improve the medical industry in the future. hybrid.
“With cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and gene editing, we have the opportunity to create a new generation of medical measures available to everyone in the world. And I’m excited because this”, Gates spoke at the American Association for Progressive Science (AAAS) meeting.
These types of technologies promise to have a powerful impact on the challenges faced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Annual AAAS meeting
To combat malaria and mosquito-borne diseases, we have CRISPR-Cas9 and other gene editing methods to change the genome of mosquitoes, making them no longer able to spread parasites. sick. The Gates Foundation is investing tens of millions of dollars to promote this genetic modification in mosquito populations.
More money is also being used to study the measures against human sickle cell disease and HIV. Gates said that the types of technology that are still in the process of developing could make a big leap in immune system treatments, requiring a large amount of extra money to be able to conduct cell division and proper technique. Genetic engineering transforms them, then graft them and hope that the cells will stabilize.
For sickle cell disease, “The main idea is to create a gene-editing method in vivo. We target the hematopoietic cells below the bone marrow area, you just need to do a simple injection and edit them with high precision”, Gates said. A similar in vivo therapy is likely to provide one “practical healing medicine” for HIV patients.
The rapid development of artificial intelligence gave Gates hope for the future. He said that the computing performance of artificial intelligence applications is doubling every three and a half months. Compared to Moore’s Law, a law that predicts that electronic chip performance will increase every two years, the rate of improvement of artificial intelligence is significantly faster.
The chart compares AI performance (pink) and Moore’s Law (blue).
One project is using artificial intelligence to find a link between maternal nutrition and infant weight. Other projects use high-flow genes to measure the balance between different types of bacteria in the human gut. The microflora is expected to play an important role in various health problems, such as gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune diseases and special neurological conditions.
“This field needs advanced sequencing technology and data processing capabilities, including artificial intelligence, to make a connection.”, Gates said. “There’s a lot of work to do if you have to research with paper and pen more than 100 trillion creatures and a large amount of genetic material. But this is a great job for the AI to do.”.
The same, similar, “offal on a chip” can accelerate biomedical research without human experiments.
“Put simply, this technology allows us to regenerate human organs in vitro so that their behavior resembles normal organs in the human body.”, Gates said.
For years, the Gates Foundation has funded a number of organ-on-a-chip projects, including an experiment using artificial lymph nodes to assess safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. In Seattle, USA, a technology venture, called Nortis, successfully commercialized with the help of Gates.
Bill Gates explained the method that genetic engineering uses to affect mosquitoes
High-tech medical research often costs a lot, but Gates argues that these technologies will cut costs needed to improve biomedical medicine in the future.
He also thinks state funds and nonprofits will have to support poor countries. They are the ones who desperately need advanced medical technology, though, “they basically have no say in the market”.
“If rich countries’ solutions don’t reduce costs … they will probably never be implemented.”, Gates said while answering questions from Margaret Hamburg, who chaired the AAAS board.
But if the growth of medical technology occurs around the world, Gates is adamant that it will impact other great challenges around the world, including the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.
“Illness is not just a sign of inequality”, Gates said, “It is also a key cause.”.
Some other issues that Gates mentioned:
– For agriculture, in developing countries, climate change makes the challenges that farmers face increasingly serious. Extreme weather events that frequently occur can bring more floods and drought seasons, more pests and diseases that can destroy the whole crop. Gates mentioned efforts at CGIAR (National Agricultural Research Advisory Group), which is developing varieties of maize, rice and more resilient crops. And at the University of Cambridge, they are developing more fertile soil. The Gates Foundation established a new research institute called the Gates Ag One to support agricultural improvement.
– Gates said that he was very worried about the two trends of information distribution of medicine. “One way is false information, but it is often more attractive than real information.”. The non-existent link between autism and the vaccine is a good example. “There is also a common belief that if experts say something, are they biased or naive?” Gates said. “This is a fight. In the future, will the process be less aggressive than it is now? I don’t know. But for the time being, it doesn’t look like it will change.”.
– Gates said that he agreed with the vision of psychologist Steven Pinker that the world is getting better. “Although there is so much to worry about … we cannot ignore the extraordinary improvements that have occurred.”, Gates said. “Many people are completely ignorant of history when they think that 20 or 40 years ago, life was better. That’s completely wrong. It is true that there are a lot of big problems that exist today. But if you as a woman, or if you are gay, if you have some illness, if you live in developing countries, 40 years ago it was a lot worse than it is now. “.
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