Athens, Ga. – Rapid advances in biology are already changing the ways we practice medicine, grow food and create fuels to power our cars and homes, but these are just the first steps in what will become a biotechnology revolution, according to Raymond McCauley, a scientist, engineer and entrepreneur slated to speak at the University of Georgia.
McCauley sees a future where computers make the technologies once restricted to research scientists working in large laboratories available to the masses, opening the door for a new wave of discovery, innovation and advancement.
“About one third of the world’s economy is now driven by biotech, but a lot of this innovation is coming from unexpected quarters,” McCauley said. “The next world-saving technology or billion-dollar company is more likely to come from a garage lab operating on a shoestring than from big company investment.”
McCauley will discuss the latest developments in biotechnology and the future of this rapidly changing field in a public lecture titled “Life is the New Black” on March 28, 10:30 a.m. to noon in Room 271 in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Library. His main presentation will be followed by an audience discussion, question and answer session and an opportunity for attendees to meet McCauley and other distinguished panelists.
The session is one of the key events during Thinc. at UGA Entrepreneurial Week, a celebration that includes lectures, workshops, panel discussions, competitions and networking events that promise to engage and inspire, and showcase innovative efforts by UGA faculty, students and alumni.
McCauley is chair of biotechnology and bioinformatics at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley ideas incubator that seeks to solve the planet’s most pressing challenges using advanced technologies. He is also a successful entrepreneur, developing and advising a number of companies and organizations, including Genomera, Vecoy Nanomedicine, Androcyte and the Platypus Project.
Over many years of first-hand experience in start-up companies and laboratories, he has seen costs for research plunge at an unprecedented rate, and new computerized technologies make complex analysis easier to do on a small scale. As research continues to become cheaper and easier to do, more and more small companies and operations will begin to contribute to the scientific field, McCauley said.
“The future for biotech is definitely digital,” McCauley said. “Computers are doing what they do best—invading new fields, melding tools, creating new data and leaving it to us humans to find better ways to turn that data into useful information.”
Citizen scientists are already beginning to use the power of computerized data analysis, electronic communication and crowd funding to do complex research at home. As technology improves, these investigators will soon have access to handheld DNA scanners, DNA sequences for humans and hundreds of thousands of animal species, materials grown to order and an environment where everything can be tagged and monitored, McCauley said.
It’s a future that is ripe with opportunity, and while it may sound like science fiction, McCauley says that these opportunities will be here before we know it.
“We better learn to live like this pretty fast,” he said. “It’s already started.”