Computers vs. Humans: A Recap of Xconomy’s New York Life Sciences 2031

10/14/11Follow @arleneweintraub

In front of a full house at Xconomy’s first public Big Apple event—New York Life Sciences 2031—biotech entrepreneurs Sam Waksal and Eric Schadt wagered on the likelihood that computers would overtake human scientists in the quest to develop drugs. Schadt pointed to IBM’s Watson as an example of a computer performing better than humans at a complex task (namely winning the game show Jeopardy), and he predicted that the drug industry would be altered significantly by bioinformatics, or the use of computation and artificial intelligence to translate genomic information into useable therapies. Replied Waksal: “Sequencing every gene isn’t going to reposition every drug to make it work. Drug discovery is a different science. It can’t be done by some computer.”

Schadt is the chief scientific officer of Pacific Biosciences and the new head of the Mount Sinai Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology. Waksal is the founder and former CEO of ImClone Systems and the founder and current CEO of biotech startup Kadmon. They were joined in the lively panel discussion by Barbara Dalton, vice president of venture capital for Pfizer, Samuel Isaly, managing partner of OrbiMed Advisors, and moderator Les Funtleyder, portfolio manager of the Miller Tabak Health Care Transformation Fund.

The after-work panel event took place at the Alexandria Center for Life Sciences on New York’s east side. Our audience of more than 150 participated enthusiastically, lobbing questions at the panelists, and tweeting highlights of the night’s discussion on our Twitter feed, #NY2031. (Search that hashtag on Twitter and you can follow the events as they happened in real time.)

The discussion started with each panelist making his or her prediction for where life sciences would be 20 years from now. Said Funtleyder: “My vision is that we will have our genetic sequences and our electronic medical records on our smartphones. We will go to a doctor that has been directed to us by a crowd-sourced social network and … Next Page »

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