The Future Postponed: Untapped Potential for Basic Research

What are the areas of untapped potential in basic research?

A new website—The Future Postponed—developed out of MIT shares case studies demonstrating the need for basic research across a wide range of disciplines. An independent advisory committee reviews and selects which case studies are highlighted. The Future Postponed serves as a platform to increase awareness regarding significant untapped opportunities in basic research.

Below is a snapshot of some recent case studies:

Alzheimer’s Disease

We are seeing breakthroughs in treating cancer—why not Alzheimer’s?  With over 5 million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s and prevalence projected to double in the coming decades, there is an essential need to better understand the fundamental disease so treatment options and ultimately, prevention strategies can be improved.

Synthetic Biology

Redesigning life itself in the lab, and in the process potentially transforming bio-manufacturing, food production, and healthcare —creating a superprobiotic to kill harmful bacteria in the stomach, eliminating animal testing for new drugs, identifying cancer cells with a virus that directs apoptosis—these are just a few of many applications that are possible through the tools of synthetic biology.

Mapping the Human Exposome

Documenting the human genome catalyzed fundamental new approaches in medicine. But genes are only the “nature” half of the story. And it’s now possible to map and understand the biological markers that define “nurture”—the total of a person’s lifetime exposure to nutrition, bacteria, viruses, and environmental toxins—which also profoundly influence human health.

Infectious Disease

The ability to understand and manipulate the basic molecular constituents of living things has created an extraordinary opportunity to improve human health. Through these abilities, scientists and public health professionals can work to prevent epidemics of emerging infectious diseases and discover solutions to the continued threat from drug resistant bacteria.