When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press, he changed the course of history. You could say the same about Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, and Grace Hopper’s compiler. What will be the next great invention to transform history? Here are a few innovations that I think are worth watching.
Better Vaccine Storage
Vaccines have saved millions of lives around the world, but they spoil if they aren’t stored at the right temperature. A group of inventors from Global Good in Seattle have created an innovative new refrigerator called the MetaFridge. It stays cold enough to keep vaccines safe even during long power outages. They’re also working on a portable cooler that enables vaccinators to travel farther and reach kids in the most remote places.
Imagine a future where we could edit a sick person’s DNA to make them better or remove the genes that enable mosquitoes to transmit malaria. We’re still in the early stages of development with genome editing tools, and I know there are a lot of questions about how to use this technology responsibly. But I’m hopeful about the possibilities.
If we’re going to end our dependence on fossil fuels and curb climate change, we need a lot of different approaches. I recently visited a lab at Caltech where researchers are exploring ways to turn the sun’s energy into fuel. We’re still a long way off from the day you can fill up your car with solar fuel, but Caltech’s creative approach gives me hope that we’ll achieve an energy miracle in the near future.
Most vaccines use weakened or inactivated forms of a virus to help your body create immunity and prevent disease. Scientists are studying how to use genetic material instead, which would make it quicker and less expensive to develop new vaccines. If we can teach the body to create its own natural defenses, we can revolutionize the way we prevent disease.
Improved Drug Delivery
If you’ve ever had to take a medication at the same time every day, then you know how easy it is to miss a pill. A company called Intarcia wants to change that. They’ve created a small device that gets implanted under your skin and slowly releases medication over time. There are a number of ways this technology could be used to better treat and prevent disease, but the one I’m most excited about is an HIV prophylactic. One implant could protect a person at risk for HIV for up to a year.
Of all the innovations on this list, this one seems like the surest bet to transform the way we live. Although AI will create new challenges that we need to address – including how to retrain workers who lose their jobs to automation – I think it will make our lives more productive, more efficient, and easier overall.