Week 6

This week’s topic was on the BioBusiness Revolution: Healthcare and Biomedical Sciences (Past, Present and Future). BioBusiness? This term caught my attention while I was scanning through the course outline prior to the start of this entire course. Combining the economics of business and the understanding of development processes and applications of biotechnology, BioBusiness is likely to be the means by which we achieve sustainable development, and it is capable of transforming our lives and economies.

Biobusiness is an emerging market that seems very promising. Just take Singapore as an example; we currently have a major investment in biotechnology, especially in the healthcare sector. Changing demographics such as increased urbanization and affluence, and a greying population forces our government to shift the focus from disease management to wellness management. Thus, there is a growing emphasis on improving the quality of life through disease prevention and promoting good health. As portrayed by the video on ‘Biotechnology: An Introduction’, biotechnology has numerous implications on our lives. The knowledge that biotechnology generates can be applied in many different fields such as healthcare, clothes and materials, food and energy. In essence, biotechnology is THE summit of all opportunities.

I think it is interesting how biotechnology offers a vast range of opportunities in so many different industries, such as biomedical, medical devices, biopharming and bioenergy. Bioenergy, in particular, is a growing industry that is undertaking a shift from fossil fuels to sustainable development. For example, deriving biodiesel from algae is highly sustainable in the long run as it is non-toxic, non-biodegradable and has a rapid growth rate.

Prof Shahi also mentioned that new chemical entities (NCE) is a rising trend in biobusiness related activities, and elaborated on the exploitation of spiderweb protein in revolutionary fibre production. Ounce for ounce, spider silk is 5 times stronger than steel (!!!) and it can be used in many interesting ways, such as lighter bulletproof vests and even suspension bridges. 

One of the discussion topics about disruptive technology also caught my attention. Disruptive technology is an innovation that disrupts an existing market, usually by lowering the price of the product.  One such example is the Tata Nano car,a new “people’s car” that is sold for only USD $2500 and is targeted primarily at families in developing countries such as India.

File:Nano.jpg

Someone then raised a question, perhaps in jest, about whether the iPhone is a disruptive technology. In my opinion, the domination of the iPhone in the smartphone market nowadays testifies to the truth that the iPhone is no longer a luxury good. In fact, 1 in 3 smartphone users own an iPhone. To date, more than 1 million iPhones are sold in Singapore.  The numbers are telling, the iPhone is becoming a commodity in many developed countries around the world. This could be due to growing affluence these days coupled with the increased competition in the smartphone market with different mobile operators spoiling the market with lower cost iPhone bundles.

I learnt a lot from Elaine’s presentation on application of Nanotechnology in the field of medicine, as it is a very specialized type of technological science that is on the forefront of the biomedical industry. Addressing one of her discussion questions about how receptive our society will be towards Nanomedicine, there are both potentials and pitfalls of this rapidly developing research area. However, I believe that the potential positive externalities brought about by nanotechnology as a whole outweighs the current monetary costs of funding and developing this research. One example that our boys raised was nanobots. Nanobots are believed to be the next generation of nanomachines and they can be used in many fields, such as electronics and even telecommunication, in fibre optics.

Overall, I would rate the lesson 7/10. I believe that the biobusiness industry has much potential for growth and our discussions helped shed some light on this relatively foreign term. I’m looking forward to the second part of this topic which will be further discussed in the next lesson.

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