Oliver Morton pens a touching tribute to modern science, inspired by a visit to a biotech company that mass-produces designer proteins “that recognise and help the body regulate various sorts of target, notably cancers”:
If cells could choose their environment, these pampered tanks would be top of their list. Tens of thousands of hours of meticulous engineering design, years of research by acute minds, billions of dollars in capital expenditure, all devoted to letting one biological process unfold with less hindrance than has ever been possible before. The ability to design environments that so suit their inhabitants may be second only to the ability to design those inhabitants themselves when it comes to the human revolutionising of biology.
And the relation of this fierce focus to diversity is not an either/or. These antibodies are designed for a purpose. I have friends whose cancers have responded to treatments of which these antibodies are a part. Those friends have lives as unique as all human lives, as unique as any sport of creation and far more precious. And mass-produced molecules, copied in numbers that dwarf those of the stars in the sky, have intervened in the machinery that supports that life and helped to prolong it.