The year 2019 was one of the most groundbreaking years of science yet: from imaging the first black hole to Google achieving quantum supremacy to the advancement of personalized genomics into a commercialized, at-home testing kit. If 2019 was any indication of the way science is advancing, it’s likely difficult to predict anything for the upcoming year.
Nevertheless, here are my top three predictions for science, technology and policy in 2020, with some of these things being researched right here at UNC.
1. Science: CRISPR-based cures.
We saw it in 2019 (although it may have been unethical), with Dr. He Jiankui, who was criminalized for his experiment involving genetically-edited babies who were now less susceptible to contracting HIV. CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene-editing tool that allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene functions. It is a tool that is currently being used in a variety of disease-based research projects, including cancer, blood disorders, AIDS, blindness, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.
These diseases all have some genetic component, which means that there is also a potential way to prevent them through genetic editing. With the advancement of the CRISPR tool, and the use of entire commercial companies being instituted to perfect and utilize the new technology, this year definitely looks bright for genomic research.