Powerful new technologies have the potential to radically transform both science and society. Economist Carlota Perez, describes the life cycle of transformative technologies into two parts: “installation,” brought on by the discovery of a new technology – a “big bang” — and “deployment,” the time when the technology finally achieves wide adoption and use. The uncertainty which inevitably accompanies revolutionary developments, means that many of the early expectations will be disappointed, leading to the collapse of bubbles created by financial speculation as well as technological euphoria or irrational exuberance.
The molecular biology revolution, catalyzed by the sequencing of the human genome, has transformed science, and increasingly impacted how new medicines are discovered and developed, and administered to selected patients. The benefit of more precise disease classification has continued resonance today, even outside of cancer. In breast cancer, specifically, “HER2 testing and trastuzumab [Herceptin] therapy has saved countless lives; genomic testing (e.g. OncotypeDX) has spared hundreds of thousands of women from chemotherapy; adjuvant endocrine therapy for ER+ cancers has saved more cancer-jeopardized lives than any other medical therapy in history.
If precision medicine is in the first stages of it’s journey, the application of AI to healthcare and, in particular, drug discovery, is just getting out of the starting gate. Predictability, this has led to the same patterns of contrasting perspectives that have emerged in response to precision medicine.