The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the vulnerability of the world to airborne viruses, the outbreaks of which are very difficult to contain. This pandemic is certainly not the last, as a study published in the journal Nature shows that the loss of biodiversity is likely to lead to an increase in the frequency of viruses. However, this pandemic also became an opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the world's biotechnologies, since within two years a vaccine was developed and introduced, allowing a return to normal life.
Biotechnologies are developing very quickly compared to many fields of technology. Partly thanks to artificial intelligence.
Machine learning (ML) has greatly contributed to the achievements in this field. For example, ML is increasingly being used to fold proteins, which is an important step in drug discovery.
Recently, DeepMind, the British division for the development of artificial intelligence owned by Alphabet Inc, announced its deep learning program called AlphaFold, which allowed to decipher 98.5% of human protein structures. Before the discovery of AlphaFold, only 17% of human protein structures had been deciphered, and it took half a century to solve this problem.
Other deep learning techniques, such as image classification, are increasingly being used to detect cancer from medical images, among many other examples of artificial intelligence applications in biotechnology. Deep learning neural networks and big data are also proving to be very effective in personalized medicine.
Benchsci, a provider of medical technologies using artificial intelligence, has tracked the growth in the number of biotech startups using machine learning technologies and found that by 2021, 230 biotech startups around the world will use artificial intelligence in their solutions. Notable startups in this sector include Ampilon, BioSymmetrics, 3BIGS, BioRelate and Causaly.
Key players in the biotech industry are BioNTech SE, Argenx SE and Galapagos NV. Pfizer Inc, BioNTech SE and Merck & Co, Inc. are known for their contribution to the fight against recent epidemics of diseases with vaccines.
Another often overlooked but very lucrative area of biotechnology is the artificial meat industry. The carbon footprint of the meat and dairy industry increases the demand for artificial meat and dairy products. This technology was developed based on stem cell research. The leading American startups in this area include Memphis Meats, New Age Meats and Finless Foods.
According to Grand View Research, in 2021 the biotechnology industry was estimated at $1 trillion, and by 2030 its value will be almost $4 trillion at a growth rate of 14%. On the other hand, the cultured meat subsector is in its infancy and, judging by the amount of funding in 2020 and 2021, is estimated at $600 million. McKinsey estimates that the market value of lab-grown meat will reach $25 billion by 2030 as consumers gradually begin to accept it. By that time, laboratory-grown meat may account for 0.5% of the global meat supply.
The countries with the highest share of biotechnological research are Singapore, Sweden, the USA, the UK and Germany.