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The emergence of technology-enabled consumer welfare

by Ana Lopez
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Dr. Evan Zhao is an expert in biotechnology. He was co-founder and is CEO of Revelationa wellness company that discovers new molecules.

In my opinion, there has never been a more prosperous and forward-looking global society. As people live longer in better socio-economic environments, their eyes will inevitably turn to wellness and longevity. Our improvements in technology have already revolutionized virtually every industry, but we’re just beginning to see the beginnings of what it can do for wellness. Here are some trends I predict when it comes to the intersection of technology and wellness.

Software-assisted wellness

We can start with the obvious. Software is eating the wellness industry. The first limit to this was ease of access. With services like online marketplaces, delivery platforms, and telehealth, it’s never been easier to get wellness products that can make a big impact. However, this easy access can be a dangerous game, and FDA-approved drugs should be closely monitored for over-prescription.

I see the next frontier for software in wellness as personalization. With more accurate data, consumers should be able to get significantly more personalized treatments and wellness routines. Current progress for this idea relies primarily on surveys, and we will see the next wave dramatically improve for this industry through the integration of biomarker measurements and data from real users.

Of course, nowadays you can’t talk about software without talking about artificial intelligence (AI). AI, when used for product discovery, is the ultimate pattern recognition machine, capable of predicting new products we wouldn’t dream of. AI, when used as a product, can range from a substitute for a therapist to the ultimate evolution of personalized wellness (think Baymax from Big Hero Six). Regardless of the application, AI will be where sci-fi wellness companies thrive.

Hardware enabled wellness

Phones are now walking TVs, portable music players and supercomputers. We are only just beginning to understand how these improvements in hardware can affect well-being. The first first look is community exercise products (see Peloton), which use machines to connect people in their own homes.

I think the next frontiers for hardware in wellness will be in the diagnostics space. The biggest problem in wellness is imperfect data, and cheaper diagnostics, coupled with better tracking systems, could allow for significantly better measurements of how different supplements affect people. This cheaper diagnostics has been on full display during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’re only going to get better at measuring biomarkers like proteins, RNA and small molecules.

Finally, I also predict the temporal resolution for certain biometrics that integrate into the future of well-being. We’ve already seen people get live data like their heart rate from Apple watches and Fitbits, but we haven’t seen it all related to what they eat and their other activities.

Biotechnology-assisted wellness

As much as the marvels of electrical and computer engineering have revolutionized consumers, our pharmaceutical capabilities have expanded rapidly over the past 30 years. Interestingly, recent consumer preferences for natural supplements and cosmetics ingredients are slowly being reversed, so we should expect a new wave of better designed and intentionally discovered products. We should see companies shift from marketing to research and development to take advantage of some of the newer wellness modalities.

These new modalities are at the center of this biotechnology wellness revolution. As an area I specialize in, if we expand the space from small molecules to all possible molecules, we have billions of possible solutions to choose from. In addition, protein, peptide and RNA solutions for wellness are rapidly being developed. These improvements should be implemented in wellness routines over the next twenty years.

Finally, the microbiome and engineered microbes are great tools for improving well-being. While we have yet to crack the exact codes of the interactions between these microbes and their hosts (us), more and more of these will need to be elucidated over the next decade. With this new knowledge, we can begin to engineer consumer microbiomes to help people with many different wellness issues.

Closed-circuit wellness

With all these new technological advancements, it’s easy to overlook probably the most important tech-enabled aspect to wellness: it’s incredibly easy to talk to customers and people. We can collect data and validate ideas in minutes, and those pigeons don’t have to work as hard. With more listening and less selling, companies will focus on building the best products possible for the next decade. People can start building really great brands around really great products. The future for both the wellness industry and individual wellness looks bright.

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