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See Inside Scientific American Volume 309, Issue 4

How to Unlock Life-Changing Technologies Now Waiting in the Labs

Miniature robots, personalized drugs and other potentially life-changing technologies lie waiting in the laboratory, lacking support. Here's how to fix the problem
Syringe with Purse & Money



Kotryna Zukauskaite

Our modern world is blessed with a wide array of products and services, health care options and medical treatments, gadgets and indulgences, all of which arrive on the scene with a rapidity that few of us can absorb. We find ourselves surprised and amazed by these wonderful innovations, and then we come to depend on them. What did we do before we had GPS, camera phones, brain scans and laser eye surgery?

The things that give us comfort and convenience and that improve our safety and health are the fruits of basic discoveries made decades ago in materials, software, computation, biology, chemistry and information technology, among other fields. And the rate at which new discoveries emerge from academic and government laboratories shows no sign of slowing. By such measures as academic papers and patent filings, science output continues to run as strong as or stronger than at any previous point in history. Moreover, with China, India and other nations coming onto the research scene in a big way, there is every reason to anticipate more great science in the future.

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