Your Predictions for Science’s Next Leap Forward

At Kerafast, our mission is to create a global community of scientists advancing research by facilitating access to unique bioreagents. This February, as Leap Day approached, we began thinking about how scientific research will advance before the next Leap Year in 2020. We therefore asked the Kerafast community for input, posing the question: “What do you think will be science’s greatest leap forward over the next four years?”

First, a big thank you to everyone who submitted answers! We were excited to see responses across a wide range scientific disciplines and expertise areas. Answers ranged from “stem cell therapy” to “gravitational waves” – ripples in the space-time curvature that Albert Einstein predicted 100 years ago, which were detected for the first time last month. We also saw a feeling of optimism for large scientific aims coming to fruition before 2020, with responses such as establishing the “theory of everything” – a unified theory that would explain the nature of all matter and energy in the universe, often called the Holy Grail of modern physics – and finding a “cure for cancer”. We certainly hope so too, with so much promising cancer research underway, as well as the White House’s recent announcement of a $1 billion cancer “moonshot” initiative.

Some of the top answers to our question are listed below, organized into three themes. Take a look and see what your fellow Kerafast community members have to say about science’s next leap forward. Did you have another prediction? Feel free to add to the discussion on Twitter, with the tags @Kerafast and #LeapScienceForward, or in a comment or post on the Kerafast Facebook page.

Improved patient care

“The diagnostic use of NextGen sequencing to personalize medicine for individuals. Instead of guessing how well a person will react to antibiotics/other drugs, NextGen sequencing will be used to sequence individual’s genomes (exomes) to identify markers that will indicate to physicians how well a person will react to the treatment.”

— Sirena Meade, Cleveland Clinic

“Biosensors small, sensitive and accurate enough to provide almost instant test results, in hospitals and at the site of an accident, and subsequently reduce the time taken before the correct treatment can be administered.”

— Anonymous

Next-generation antibiotics

“The next greatest leap forward could be the use of the anti-quorum sensing molecules as the new generation of antibiotics.”

— Monica Rivera-Rosas, CINVESTAV-IPN (The Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico)

“With growing antibiotic resistance, I’m looking towards the usage of directed phage therapy to usher in the post antibiotic era.”

— Anthony Franchini, University of Rochester (and a Kerafast fellow)

Better understanding of diseases

“The realization that several “autoimmune/inflammatory” diseases are, in fact, the result of an infection. The infectious agent, Mycobacterium avuim ss. paratuberculosis (MAP). The list: Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Hasimoto’s thyroiditis and type one diabetes. Clinical trials with antibiotics are underway for Crohn’s and MS.”

— Tom Dow, Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic

“Disentangling the underlying genetic and proteomic profiles related to the different kinds of cardiovascular disease. Nowadays, many people view cardiovascular atherosclerotic disease as one disease entity, in which several behavioral risk factors play a key role. Unlike cancer research, the cardiovascular field has never put effort in disentangling whether there are different biochemical processes involved in the different atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases. Are the involved biochemical processes the same for cerebrovascular disease as for coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease? Besides, among individuals with coronary artery disease, are all biological processes the same? Or could we identify individuals with primary metabolic disorders or individuals with susceptibility for, for instance, cigarette smoke? Since whole genome sequencing is becoming more and more easy to do and less costly and since the knowhow on processing these data is becoming more and more available, combining these data with data on proteomics might bring more detail to the field of ischemic cardiovascular disease. Big data crushing is the future.”

— SJ Pinto-Sietsma, AMC (Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands)