Bioengineering Horizon Scan 2020

I’m pleased to be one of the co-authors of “Point of View: Bioengineering horizon scan 2020” – published as a feature article in eLife, one of the leading peer-reviewed open access scientific journals for the biomedical and life sciences.

The paper reports on the results of a horizon scanning study that examined emerging issues in bio-engineering. The study was undertaken by participants from six continents and 13 countries and was coordinated by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.

The study builds on an earlier 2017 horizon scan that, among other topics, discussed the use of ‘platform technologies to address emerging disease pandemics’. Such technologies now appear as significant in the search for vaccine candiates to address the curent COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 2020 horizon scan, newly highlighted issues includes topics spanning from the political (the regulation of genomic data, increased philanthropic funding and malicious uses of neurochemicals) to the environmental (crops for changing climates and agricultural gene drives). The 20 topics are grouped into issues that are expected to be most relevant within five years, within 5–10 years, and on timescales of longer than 10 years (see table).

Source: Bioengineering Horizon Scan 2020,

The paper also raises seven underlying themes that represented underlying commonalities and drivers: 1) political economy and funding; 2) ethical and regulatory frameworks; 3) climate change; 4) transitioning from lab to field; 5) inequalities; 6) technological convergence; and 7) misuse of technology.

The intent of the paper is to spur further research into these issues and further discussion of their implications by researchers, policy-makers and the wider public.

Point of View: Bioengineering Horizon Scan 2020 is available at eLife 2020; 9:e54489 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.54489.

This post is drawn from text included in paper and its abstract. Please see the paper for full discussion and attribution.