Tech trends in 2022
Perspective, by AlbionVC
As we welcome the new year, year of the tiger according to the Chinese tradition, here are our technology predictions for the year ahead. 2022 will be the year that:
The year DeFi grows up
2022 will be the year that Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) enters DeFi properly. Just as we saw blockchain analytics companies emerge 5 years ago to bring AML/KYC solutions to the crypto currency markets, we will see a similar inflection in tooling for DeFi in 2022. The underlying DeFi market is on the tear, as measured by Total Value Locked (TVL), over the last year TVL is up c. 5x, now sitting at c. $100bn. But it’s still like the wild west with tokens pegged to games inspired by TV shows that rocket 5,000% in 3 days. Coinbase already had a scuff with the S.E.C over a proposed lending product earlier this year, and the regulators globally will certainly be looking at some of the large DeFi platforms more closely in 2022. The clue is in the name, how and to who do regulators apply, monitor and enforce regulation in a decentralised environment? Decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) support dramatically different governance and surveillance regimes, mostly offering governance token where 1 token equals 1 vote, but many holders don’t participate. For example c. 40% of the voting weight in the popular protocol Compund was centralised across 3 venture capital firms earlier this year (although at the time of writing it was closer to 30%).
With many of the major ecosystem elements booming (yield farming, derivatives, gaming/NFTs, DEX, stablecoins, DEXs), unlocking GRC will be the key to turning the turbo boosters on.
The year hydrogen becomes unstoppable
Hydrogen has had a few false dawns in the past but as the world has woken up to the climate disaster and hydrogen’s energy density means it has to be a big part of our future, co-existing and complementing battery technology. Governments are now waking up to the new reality and piling more capital into infrastructure. We need better and bigger electrolysers to help make this happen, so we anticipate a lot of investment and research pushing those technologies on. Fast refuelling times will give hydrogen an advantage in the transport and logistics sectors so we’ll see fuel cell companies designing specific stacks for larger vans, aeroplanes and industrial vehicles. We are excited to see bespoke stacks enter the market for emerging use cases.
The year of domain specific low-code platforms
Over the last decade we have seen steep growth in low-code platforms including from cloud providers (Microsoft’s Powerapps, Amazon’s Honeycode, Google’s Appsheet) and others (e.g. Appian and Outsystems). However, these low-code platforms have been general purpose. As a result, whilst they provide templates of ready-made applications to get a project off the ground, once a citizen developer needs to edit an application to meet a specific use case they are faced with substantial complexity – since these platforms have been built to support a broad range of applications, they typically have extensive component libraries and configurations and scripting languages for defining processes and behaviour. This can leave citizen developers overwhelmed, and the horizontal low-code platform devolves into a jack of all trades, master of none.
In our view, this leaves considerable space for domain specific low-code platforms. In contrast to one size fits all low-code solutions, domain specific low-code platforms can focus on narrow class of applications and provide tailored application definition interfaces and carefully selected customisation points.
There are many classes of applications where domain expertise can be used to streamline development without exposing citizen developers to the complexity of one size fits all platforms – and we are excited to see them emerge in 2022!
The year of uneven fortunes for gene therapies
The fortunes of ‘traditional’ gene therapies will continue to diverge in 2022. Systemic delivery of naturally occurring AAV gene therapies will still face safety issues in the clinic given particularly the high doses at which they’re being administered, producing a narrow therapeutic window. There is potential for success with targeted approaches such as retinal and CNS-delivered AAV, and for products with novel capsids that minimise immune response or enable lower dosing for equivalent efficacy. Meanwhile, although ex vivo lentiviral gene therapy has in general maintained its good efficacy/safety record, performance will be driven instead by demonstration of commercial success and evidence that market access is achievable. Newer modalities such as gene editing, non-viral gene delivery, and gene therapy using re-engineered viral backbones both AAV and lenti will progress through preclinical development and sometimes even into clinic. A nuanced picture but given the continued increase in interest, activity and funding, it’s patients that will stand to gain the most.
The year biotech embraces data & computing power
2021 was a big year for AI biotech – there were several astonishingly large funding rounds, IPOs and collaborations with big pharmaceutical companies. 2022 brings an even bigger leap forward in the use of data and computing power within biotech as we expect to see these models getting further validated in the lab and more importantly in the clinic. AI based drug discovery certainly has and will continue to make big headlines, especially considering that first AI discovered drugs are expected to read out in the clinic. Likewise, new and improved powerful tools such as alphafold will generate even more interest in computational biology and its applicability.
The year Natural Language Processing (NLP) goes mainstream
Last year we predicted the rise in Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, partly driven by the release of GPT-3 by Open AI. Much of this came to fruition and NLP is now one of the most exciting areas of machine learning, in terms of new innovations. GPT-3, which is based on deep learning and trained on at least 10 times more data than its predecessor, is an order of magnitude more powerful than previous technologies. The release of GPT-3 has made it possible to create language applications in a low-code and no-code way with no need for training models. This has spawned hundreds of start-ups in the past 12 months, addressing a whole range of use cases in sector such as customer experience, marketing automation, email writing etc. These are mostly applications that require functional text creation or filling in gaps. As has been widely publicised, GPT-3 is yet to overcome some key challenges such as understanding meaning, reasoning and inventing “facts” or going “off-piste”. But the release of the model is a big step forward towards ever more sophisticated NLP technologies and new use cases, focused on increased productivity and creating a natural language interface between us and our computers. We expect this trend to continue in 2022 with an increase of NLP use in many applications, from email writing to code development and medical research.
The year of precision cancer medicine
Ever since the development of next generation sequencing (NGS), we’ve long been promised the age of precision cancer medicine where we can rapidly diagnose patients and treat them with targeted therapies for better outcomes. The complex interplay of human genetics and cancer biology, along with the practical real-world difficulties in delivering precision diagnostics, has thus far hampered our progress within this cause. However, we are now at a critical juncture and 2022 will demonstrate that we have reached the age of precision cancer medicine.
As of writing, we no longer beholden to the slow, complex, and expensive use of NGS for patient diagnosis. There is now a whole host of different molecular assays that enable us to accurately detect actionable molecular or genetic markers in a rapid, multiplexed and cheap manner. Coupled to this, our repertoire of therapies has significantly expanded to include new targeted treatments like checkpoint inhibitors, PARP inhibitors, and antibody-drug conjugates. With each new successful treatment pathway, we gain a better understanding of the different routes by which we can target cancer. The use of incredibly powerful and novel research tools like CRISPR screens, multiplex single-cell analysis, and advanced bioinformatic pipelines will only increase the speed at which we identify and test novel targets. As well faster target discovery, we’re also getting much better at running cheaper and more effective clinical trials. We look forward to working alongside research institutions at UCL, with 7 world-leading academic clinical research centres and 23 associated partner hospitals.
If you are excited about one of these themes we’d love to hear from you, get in touch on email@example.com
Unlocking AI’s full potential for beating cancer
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Christoph Ruedig, Partner AlbionVC on the HealthTech Podcast