Cracking the Code By Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi

Book review: Cracking the CodeMedical science could be on the brink of a new golden age. And you won't find a better guide on how to cash in than this.


By Jim Mellon and Al ChalabiPublished by Wiley

Europe is cracking up. China is slowing down. America and Britain are dependent on near-zero interest rates and copious amounts of money printing. The global economy is in a mess.

So when investors and entrepreneurs Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi claim that "our world stands on the brink of the greatest era of discovery and advance ever seen", you could be forgiven for being sceptical. Yet read their latest book on how the biotech industry is set to transform both medicine and society, and you might just be convinced.

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As the authors note, much of the basic theory behind the field of biotechnology has existed since the 19th century. However, thanks to the pace of change produced by Moore's Law (roughly speaking, the tendency for computer processing power to double every two years), enough computing power now exists to put theory into practice, they argue.

For example, the price of mapping an individual's genome has tumbled in the past decade. Indeed, we may be approaching something close to futurist Ray Kurzweil's 'singularity', where technology becomes so advanced that it sets off a self-sustaining cycle of discovery. This will hugely improve the quality of human life and create massive opportunities for canny investors.

The book is wide-ranging, and can be read in discrete chunks. If you want to learn about the most interesting discoveries you can flick to chapters four and five. If you just want to know which shares to buy, skip to the last chapter, which splits the suggested stocks into three portfolios, based on risk. The only downside to this approach is that the focus jumps from topic to topic, with a chapter on obesity following one on robotics, for example.

While neither author has a background in medicine, they generally provide enough detail to inform without overwhelming their audience (although even they admit that their explanation of DNA's workings, in chapter two, may be heavy going for the casual reader). Perhaps more importantly, their track record means their views on where to invest in this high-risk industry are certainly worth seeking out.

Cracking the Code: Understand and Profit from the Biotech Revolution That Will Transform Our Lives and Generate Fortunes, by Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi, published by Wiley, £16.99.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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