A market worth more than $600bn is set to emerge in the coming years enabling humans to live longer and healthier, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, offering investors a number of opportunities now.
The so-called ‘techmanity’ revolution (where technology meets humanity) could result in radical life extension that “disrupts death”, according to the bank’s strategists.
“Human longevity could be the greatest opportunity and disruptor of our time,” they noted.
“In 1900 a person was only expected to live to 31 on average. By 2015, global life expectancy had more than doubled to 72 and it is expected to reach 83 by 2100.”
They added: “What's more, it is not just about living longer, but also about living healthier with a better quality of life.
“We are entering an era of ‘healthceleration’ where advances in technology could bring about a quantum leap in the quality and length of human lives.
“Innovations in genomics, big data & AI and ‘ammortality’ mean that living healthily past 100 could become more common in the coming decades.”
As such a market opportunity valued at $110bn could reach $610bn by 2025, covering five areas: genomics, big data & AI (artificial intelligence) health, future food’, ‘ammortality’, and ‘moonshot medicine’.
Investors will be able to access this trend through life sciences companies, innovative biopharmaceutical firms, biotech gene therapy players and other companies within the sector.
Source: Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research
In genomics, companies are challenging to provide the next generation of gene-editing technology, which could offer advances in disease treatment, drug development, personalised treatments and food.
BofA ML’s strategists said the rate of change in genomics technology has been exponential with sequencing costs falling by 99.999 per cent since 2003.
Gene editing technology can target up to 30 per cent of the ageing process, while one in four is expected to have genes sequenced for personal treatment by 2025.
“The next generation of gene editing technology can drive a paradigm shift in prevention and disease treatments, drug development, personalised treatments and also in food & agriculture,” the bank’s strategists noted.
The big data & AI market is expected to grow to $36bn by 2025 enabling the useful analysis of exponential growth of healthcare data.
The growth of easily accessible data has sped up scientific research and development and is expected to see medical knowledge double every 73 days by 2020 compared with every 3.5 years in 2010.
“In combination with the declining costs of genome sequencing, the growth in AI health capabilities and digitisation of health records, this is generating a new wave of healthcare data for therapeutics,” said the strategists.
“This molecular, genetic and behavioural data can hence be used to give a more holistic overview of patients and personalise treatments.”
While the market could grow to $36bn by 2025, the full potential benefits of data-driven, personalised healthcare delivery could be as high as $10trn globally and provide significant uplift to human health, according to the bank.
Future food solutions such as lab-grown meat and the rise of ‘flexitarian’ diets that reduce meat consumption could become a $7.5bn market by 2025.
“The current model of food consumption is unsustainable and must change to prevent spiralling societal costs,” they strategists noted. “One in five world deaths result from poor diets, which kill more than tobacco, and health-related costs from red/processed meat consumption total $285bn annually.”
Ammortality – which focuses on extending health spans and lifespans, enabling people to live freer of disease rather than forever – is a market currently valued at $86.4bn today but could grow to $504bn by 2025.
“On average we lose nearly eight years of our lives to poor health, which costs the US economy $4trn each year alone,” the bank noted.
“Hence consumer-friendly healthtech and wellness products can help us to live more active and longer lives in what will amount to a $504bn market by 2025.”
Lastly, ‘moonshot medicine’ is an area focused on anti-ageing biotech and immortality, which could result in radical life extension that “disrupts death”.
“Traditionally, ageing has not been viewed as a disease that can be treated but this is changing,” the Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists noted, adding that players in the space are increasingly looking to tackle the hallmarks of ageing.
However, there are a number of risks to the ‘techmanity revolution’, the bank noted.
The first is the potential issue of inequality – that radical life extension would only be available for the very wealthy – highlighting Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari’s belief that expensive enhancement would lead to the creation of biological castes.
This could lead to a super-rich class with ‘god-like attributes’ while the technological improvements and more efficient machines supplanting labour would create an enormous ‘useless class’ without economic or military purpose, according to Harari.
There remains a lack of ethics-based regulation on the use of genomics, the bank noted, with recent cases highlighting a missing framework in the use of gene editing.
“New rules could also emerge against using genomic data to discriminate, while providing various services, especially in healthcare and insurance,” the bank added.
Another key issue is privacy and how sensitive and personal genetic data will be stored in the future.
“The risk is worsened by poor data governance in the sector – half of protected health information from the healthcare industry is overexposed in the cloud,” said BofA ML’s strategists.
“To fully capitalise on these advances, the data would need to be centralised, raising questions about privacy given its sensitive nature. This trend will be intensified by wearable devices and sensors collecting more data on us.”
Genetic data of families is also an issue as an individual is not just giving away their own data but that of their relatives without consent.
In addition, there are concerns over pensions, healthcare costs, longevity risk (for life insurers), overpopulation, biological warfare (by gene editing), retirement ages, and morality, among others.