Photo: Courtesy of Michael May
Michael May’s Reading List Reflects His Passion for Science and Technology
The regenerative medicine expert can't wait to dive into a book on gene-editing technology and praises a title on the economics of AI / BY Shinan Govani / July 5th, 2023
Nature versus nurture; there’s no doubt Michael May likes to walk that tightrope. As president and CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) in Toronto — a cutting-edge Canadian not-for-profit that develops technologies and helps catalyze investment in the field of regenerative medicine — his research takes place far from any ivory tower. Armed with a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto, and boasting a myriad of board appointments — including the Ontario Life Sciences Council, the ARM Foundation for Cell and Gene Medicine, as well as ExCellThera Ltd. — May recently filled us in on his parallel adventures in reading. And how authors — both fiction and non-fiction — have long inspired him.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb. I work with these University of Toronto professors on the Creative Destruction Lab — an amazing mentorship initiative established by Agrawal to grow ideas into massive companies. It is exciting and humbling to think about the opportunities and challenges that humans will encounter in an AI-enabled world.
What book can’t you wait to dive into?
The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson, which tells the story of Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, one of the inventors of the CRISPR gene-editing platform, and its transformative impact on biotechnology and the future of humankind. My team at CCRM uses this technology in the development of revolutionary cell and gene therapies, which represent the future of medicine.
What’s your favourite book of all time?
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This book consumed me for weeks when I was a teenager. What an imagination!
What book completely changed your perspective?
As the Future Catches You by Harvard professor Juan Enriquez. It introduced me to biotechnology and entrepreneurship, and I loved his hypothesis that understanding the language of the genome (ACGT) was the latest innovation in human language development — each phase, from cave drawings to hieroglyphics to Chinese characters to the 26-letter alphabet to binary language – driving human innovation and wealth creation.
If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
Umberto Eco. I loved Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of The Rose, but was struck by his assertion that the metaphor is the greatest human invention of all time, because it communicates the greatest amount of information with the fewest number of words. This guides my approach to commercializing scientific discovery: to create “scientific metaphors” that will result in transformative companies that generate health and economic benefits for Canada, using the least amount of resources and time.