Unmute

Here’s an excerpt from our December 2020 investor report:

This is a visualisation of DNA, the molecules that contain our genetic code. See here for an engaging video reconstruction of the organisation and structural features of DNA, inside the chromosome of a living cell. We pay homage to Rosalind Franklin, who made a significant contribution to the discovery of the double helix structure, yet she was not awarded a Nobel prize. She is one of far too many women scientists in history who were not recognised for their contributions in their time. The discovery of DNA is an interesting historical parallel to today, with DNA’s origins in the search for a vaccine to combat the Spanish Flu epidemic, which took more lives than WW1.

ou’re on mute” was all too often the way we began our conversations in recent months, virtual calls having become our default, rather than alternate, reality. What were we ‘unmuting’ to talk about? Science of course! Hardly surprising for us deep tech geeks here at Main Sequence. But the big shift was that everyone else suddenly wanted to talk about science too.

In what has been an unprecedented year for scientific words entering the discourse, everyday conversations have come to centre around virus transmission rates, new strains, new tests and the progress of vaccine development. Concepts like “R-naught”, “flattening the curve” and “herd immunity” — squarely the domain of epidemiologists in times past — are suddenly common parlance. It evidences a cultural shift catalysed by COVID: science is enjoying something of a renaissance.

We’re listening to our scientists. We can trust in science. And we’re reconnecting with the idea that science, through rapid innovation of new technologies, can bring real benefit. Buoyed by the breakneck pace of COVID vaccine development — a feat of human ingenuity combined with a collective readiness to commit capital and resources — we’re reminded that crisis can give rise to extraordinary scientific breakthroughs.

And now we must continue. What if, by mobilising science and capital, it is entirely possible to solve the problems that we have yet to meaningfully address as a planet? Just as the discovery of DNA has origins in the search for a Spanish Flu vaccine, we could discover scientific breakthroughs through COVID that we can’t even conceive of.

So for what will we ‘unmute’ in a less literal sense? If COVID has brought us closer to an understanding of what we might be capable of, and what counts, what will we give our voices to now?

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Venture capital investor at Main Sequence Ventures

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