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INSIDEFDI


Abrighter futurebeckons, for those thatcanaffordit


THE PROGRESS IN DEVELOPING COVID-19 VACCINES AND EXTENDING LIFESPANS HAS BEEN REMARKABLE, BUT, JACOPO DETTONI ASKS, WILL WE ALL BENEFIT?


outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. While this and other countries grapple with the effect of a stubborn second wave, there is cause for optimism. Several vaccines have been devel- oped and approved, making it a race against time for the world to develop herd immunity. However, distributing the vac-


I


cine will prove as challenging as developing it was. Vaccine tensions have already stolen the limelight — EU versus AstraZeneca, anyone? While politics run their course, I marvel at the wonders of biotech- nology. It took less than two days for a lab in Shanghai to map the virus genome sequence in early January 2020, and less than 12 months for vaccines to be devel- oped and approved. fDi contributor Megha Bahree


puts this into context (see p60) by looking at the Ebola virus. Although the world had its first clinical case in 1976, its first genome wasn’t sequenced until in 1993; its vaccine went on trial in 2003 and it was finally approved in 2019. The com- parison with Sars-Cov-2, the virus behind Covid-19, is mind-blowing. Whilemany sectors struggle to


collect a productivity dividend from the adoption of information technol- ogy—the Solow paradox—biotech research has been accelerated drasti- cally by the adoption of computing technology and artificial intelli- gence. Longevity research stands out on that quickly advancing frontier: “I’m not a fan of immortality [...] Iam a big fan of adding 10, 20, 25 healthy and happy years,” a longevity inves- tor tells Seth O’Farrell in his cover story (see page 18). The economic case for longevity seems unequivocal. The number of


February/March 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


t’s been a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared the novel coronavirus


people who will be aged 60 or over will double to exceed two billion in 2050. This group already concen- trates much of the global wealth and won’t hesitate to direct funds to improve their health and lifespan. In a recent survey by Swiss bank UBS, 90% of the wealthy investors sur- veyed say investing in their health is more important than growing their wealth.More than half of them(53%) also expect to reach age 100. The industry has taken notice.


Bank of America predicts thewhole longevity market will be worth $600bn by 2025. I fear, though, that longevity risks perpetuating and widening global inequality by push- ing life expectancy of an elite class of wealthy elders closer to the 100-year mark, while their younger peers in developing countries remain exposed to easily treatable diseases. The Covid-19 vaccine saga is


revealing. As of January 18, just 25 doses were administered across all low-income countries compared with 39 million in wealthier ones, according to the WHO. This is in total disregard of the the truth unveiled by Covid-19: that local health is global health (see page 40). The poet Charles Bukowski once wrote: “You can’t beat death, but at least you can beat death in life.” While I doubt he had stemcells ther- apy or skin rejuvenation in mind, a wall ofmoney is piling up to push the boundaries of life. Many will take the plunge—at least those that can afford it.■


Jacopo Dettoni is the editor of fDi.


DISTRIBUTING THE VACCINE WILL PROVE AS CHALLENGING AS DEVELOPING ITWAS


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