Bio apps for the platforms of Biontech and Moderna soon?
Photo: Christophe Morin / imago images / IP3press
As for the digital corporations, we had a major platform problem before the pandemic.
In post-pandemic times, however, it will no longer be a major problem.
But a gigantic one.
Corona has made the platforms on the internet bigger and more powerful, you hear that often and of course it's not entirely wrong.
Amazon and Google are more powerful and richer than ever before, Chinese platforms are rolling up the field from behind, see TikTok.
The platform principle is the most powerful model of the 21st century, economically, in communication, socially.
Platforms are a mixture of the technical operating system of a market, a communicative marketplace and an economic ecosystem.
Central to platforms is that they can process data streams at high speed or even in real time to improve their performance.
The platform principle thus leads to a system that is capable of learning, because it is data-driven, which is why its power will increase with the triumph of artificial intelligence (AI).
Platforms and AI are made for each other, and they are an incredible blessing in terms of sheer progress.
Unfortunately, especially from a democratic point of view, a big "but" follows.
Sascha Lobo, arrow to the right
Born in 1975, is an author and strategy consultant with a focus on the Internet and digital technologies.
In 2019, Kiepenheuer & Witsch published his book “Reality shock: Ten lessons from the present”.
In his debate podcast, Lobo responds to responses to his columns.
Axel Springer boss Mathias Döpfner has published a contribution to the debate on the power of platforms in the form of an open letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
I am not in every facet of his opinion, and I have often written that, from my point of view, Axel Springer has pushed for bad digital policies such as ancillary copyright.
But Döpfner hits one very important point: The EU has not the slightest idea how to regulate platforms properly.
The EU has a great deal of experience in how to regulate platforms incorrectly or inadequately.
My favorite example is from Facebook and was created within the framework of the General Data Protection Regulation GDPR, which in itself may not be fundamentally bad.
But Facebook obtained the legally required consent of its users in 2018 with a few pop-ups.
And if you - everything is complicated - clicked on "Accept everything", then you gave your consent to use the facial recognition software from Facebook.
This is the function that Facebook deactivated after massive protests in Europe in 2012.
It seemed like a mockery that Facebook, on the occasion of the GDPR, implemented what is roughly the most monitored technology of all, like a mockery of the EU's constant attempts at regulation.
After two and a half years of the General Data Protection Regulation, it doesn't look as if Google and Facebook have fundamentally been shaken in their data radicalism.
Their profits are skyrocketing, their power is at an all-time high, their tax burden is ridiculous.
Every biological problem can be described as a data problem, every disease as a bug, every biological agent as an algorithm.
Döpfner's article bears its essence in the title: "Total transparency always ends totalitarian".
He refers to the so-called »surveillance capitalism«.
Even if I do not consider Döpfner's proposed solution to "ban the storage of all personal private sensitive data" to be expedient or even feasible - the EU must very, very urgently find out how to democratically keep platforms in check.
That is essential, because what Döpfner is describing only appears to me to be the platform problem from five years ago.
Not that especially with Chinese platforms there is no danger of creeping totalitarianism.
But the problem is actually bigger, and the pandemic has shown us that in passing.
Just different from what many believe.
more on the subject
Icon: Spiegel PlusIcon: Spiegel PlusVaccine manufacturer Biontech: The long way from Mainz to the top of the worldBy Tim Bartz, Markus Brauck, Martin U. Müller and Thomas Schulz
Because for the near future it can be seen that the platform principle rises from the network and conquers other parts of the world.
Tearing swivel on Corona and the associated solution, i.e. the vaccination.
The two biotech companies Biontech and Moderna use so-called mRNA vaccines, a completely new type of drug.
More precisely: part of a bio-platform.
After analyzing the genome of the virus, it took 48 hours for today's final vaccine to be ready.
One or the other may have wondered why Moderna and Biontech have actually researched various anti-cancer drugs, but apparently somehow carved a vaccination against Covid-19 in no time at all.
Cancer and Covid are, after all, very different diseases.
The solution lies in the principle of a platform, applied to biology.
Of course, these processes should not be viewed as a one-to-one transfer from the digital.
But the parallels are amazing, and so are the consequences.
It starts with the fact that DNA is ultimately just data.
The famous four letters G, C, A and T, the first letters of the nucleobases that make up the DNA code, correspond to zero and one in the digital world.
So far, so well known.
In the following, however, every biological problem can be described as a data problem, every disease as a bug, every biological agent as an algorithm.
To get an impression of the power and, above all, the speed of Moderna's bio-platform: After the genome analysis of the virus, it took 48 hours until today's final vaccine was ready.
The rest of the time was spent on testing and approval routines.
The secret, as Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel explained in a podcast, is that you can machine-print the biological agents instead of the tedious process of growing them.
This makes it possible to achieve unprecedented scalability, which also parallels the digital world.
The production volumes are no longer limited by limits in the production of mRNA, but rather by technologies that still need to be improved for the production of protective covers in which the fragile genetic code can be brought into the body.
The effect of biotech platforms, as Bancel explains, is, so to speak, a form of industrialization: the robots in a machine factory that are connected in series can manufacture almost any product with new instructions: just a drug against leukemia, now the Covid-19 vaccine.
Title: Reality Shock: Ten Lessons from the Present
Editor: Kiepenheuer & Witsch
Number of pages: 400
Author: Lobo, Sascha
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It can be foreseen where the bio-platform principle will lead: With the help of artificial intelligence and methods such as the messenger molecule mRNA, the technological and market developments of digitization in biology are repeated.
First and foremost, individualization, i.e. drugs tailored to individuals.
But also the creation of economic ecosystems where bio-apps, i.e. specially developed active ingredients, use the Modernas platform.
And last but not least, monopoly or duopoly: it is quite possible that Moderna and Biontech will become the Android and iOS of the biological future.
But Curevac has also been working with mRNA as a platform technology for a long time.
This is a fabulous development that is to be welcomed, because today it will produce unimagined biological mechanisms of action.
The mRNA vaccines can already be updated to a certain extent by the robots changing a few details.
We will see drugs in which biological plug-ins for special target groups such as the elderly or pregnant women become standard.
On the horizon, hyper-customizable bio-active ingredients can be sensed via the analysis app, with which one can optimize oneself.
As great as this is and will be - unfortunately, the greater the helplessness of politicians in dealing with platforms.
The screwed up vaccination start of the EU is also related to the fact that platforms are reaching a speed that classic institutions and their sedate work processes cannot even map in emergency mode.
As for the post-pandemic platform problem: The platform principle is more powerful than ever and is spreading further.
And we know even less than before how we, the liberal democracies of the world, can use the positive sides - which we have to - without letting the negative proliferate unregulated.
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