Biotechnology got a moment in the spotlight last week when President Obama called out the now-famous Kathy Proctor in his State of the Union speech. Hailed as one of the faces of “today’s fast-changing economy,” Proctor could be seen on camera proudly pointing at herself: “That’s me!” The 55-year-old North Carolinian had recently returned to college to pursue a biotech degree after her more traditional manufacturing job disappeared. But is the fledgling industry she’s joining really more secure?
Yes, according to Juan Enriquez, Managing Director of Excel Venture Management: like the digital revolution before it, the genomics revolution will deliver on the hype. The result will be a huge boon for smart investors. “Not only are we reading life code,” he told Big Think in a 2009 interview, “we’re beginning to copy it through cloning, and we’re beginning to write. And in the measure that we do that, boy, you can build a lot of very powerful companies in a short period of time.”
Himself the CEO of a life sciences research and investment firm (Biotechnonomy LLC), Enriquez’s low-key style masks genuine excitement about the potential biotech offers. “It’s a really neat period because on the one hand, you get all these discoveries coming at you and on the other hand, you have all these smart people wanting to do stuff with this new code. So, coming to the office every day is a little like Christmas.”
Enriquez stresses that “life code” (the famous A, G, T, C of DNA) will have the same importance for the next generation as digital code (1’s and 0’s) does now. “Just as from the 1970’s onward, digital code started to drive the global economy, now life code is beginning to be the fundamental driver of the global economy over the next 10, 20, 30 years.” The effects won’t just be felt by Proctor and other members of her industry. “It’s not going to surprise me if our kids end up running on the beach in Florida when they’re 100 years old on regrown body parts, with a much higher quality of life than we can begin to imagine.”