One of the greatest insights gained in building FOXO is we (“all of us”) are entering a new epoch in understanding biology. While my educational background doesn’t necessarily set me up to make prognostications, my observations do.
In 2019, I observed a significant change during FOXO’s seminal research project that sought to correlate patterns of methylation at over 800,000 CpG sites along the epigenome to 131 clinical assays used to assess individual health and wellness in over 1,000 individuals participating in our study. During the study, our Chief Data Scientist recommended that we use a new software tool to conclude our research.
I can still remember the day when Dr. Randall Olson, the data scientist credited with authoring the supervised machine learning language TPOT said, “There is a new data software tool out there, and while it’s kind of expensive, I think it could help us complete our research.” The adoption and use of that automated machine learning software tool fundamentally changed our ability to obtain far-reaching conclusions about our biology. I know that it would have been next to impossible to obtain the results we did. And I know that the results we obtained reset the course of our company and also contributed to a fundamental change in the understanding of human health and wellness.
Sure, statements about transformational change of health have been made before. Like in 2003, when scientists decoded the human genome. But this time is different. Why? Two reasons:
- First, the maturation of DNA sequencing platform technologies capable of producing troves of genomic and epigenomic data; and
- Second, the emergence of AI and bioinformatic tools that are available to analyze the troves of genomic and epigenomic data and correlate it to phenotypic data.
When the first human genome was sequenced in 2003, it took over a decade and cost $3B to complete. Today, a genome can be sequenced in a day at a cost of a domestic plane ticket. And with the introduction of new automated machine learning tools, there is a clear case to why the observation that “this time is different” is in fact true.
A recent essay by Dr. Doug Cole, someone qualified to make this prognostication, calls this new epoch “The Biological Century.” The essay is an amazing piece that elegantly foretells what the future of precision medicine holds for us.
The fact is, transformational change is upon us and it is certain to unleash a new epoch in precision medicine. Very soon, prescribing the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin after the discovery of a grapefruit-size tumor in the intestine will look barbaric. Cancer is at work inside our bodies long before it emerges in the form of a tumor that blocks our bowels, or causes recognizable pain that leads to an MRI or biopsy and the awful diagnosis that follows.
Cancer is cellular function gone awry. Seeing cancer in its native molecular form when genetic or epigenetic mechanisms malfunction is the focus of precision diagnostics. Correcting molecular cellular function by modifying genetic or epigenetic mechanisms is the focus of precision medicine. Together, these two disciplines encompass precision medicine and are all but certain to change the course of human health and wellness in a new epoch called The Biological Century.