We were very excited that David Berry, General Partner at Flagship Pioneering, opened Refresh earlier this month with a keynote on how far biotech has come.
David has extensive experience in the biotech field and holds over 200 patents and patent applications. He has co-founded and helped build more than 20 companies during his time at Flagship, one of the major VCs in Boston, and therefore is located right at the forefront of biotech innovation.
David outlined how the first biotech transformations really stem from the mid-1900s, starting out with the discovery of the DNA structure, followed by the first recombinant production of human insulin and the foundation of Genentech. “What they did was, they inspired a tremendous amount of competition that allowed the biotech industry to launch,” he explained.
Yet, David boldly stated that while biotech has been a huge success and has given rise to a great number of new therapeutic products, the core technology hasn’t really changed that much. “What is the state of the art that big biotech is practicing today? Well, it’s making single proteins. It’s making engineered proteins. It hasn’t advanced an exceptional amount.”
According to David, biotech is still in its infancy and today “we’re facing the opportunity of the first big inflection point since the foundation of Genentech. And this to me makes this the most exciting era in the history of biotech.”
David explains that at a time where costs of DNA sequencing and synthesis are lower than ever, we are able to obtain unprecedented amounts of information and, for the first time, to actually understand the human genome. He described how advances in the field of gene editing and synthetic biology are offering huge opportunities in biotech now. “Our ability to do things that allow us to influence the genome is going to unleash an entirely new era of biotech.”
“I think we’re only at the early stages of biotech. I think it’s not just human health, it’s agriculture and also sustainability (…). This is the right time to be a biotech innovator, and this is the right time to be a biotech investor.”
In the Fireside chat afterward, David also shared his views on the potential of the microbiome, the challenges of CRISPR technologies and the quality of Nature articles. Check out the video to hear more!