Bio & Life Sciences Business

Highlights from Techonomy Bio 2014

This video captures highlights from last year’s inaugural Techonomy Bio conference. Join us on March 25 at the Computer History Museum for Techonomy Bio 2015, where we’ll again bring together cross-sector leaders from biotech, IT, science, healthcare, pharma, agriculture, academia, finance, and the synthetic bio community for an open and dynamic dialogue on the fast moving ideas, solutions […]   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Ubiquitous Biotech in a Time of Ignorance

(Image via Shutterstock)

Biology has recently found solutions we didn’t imagine were possible, such as the recent discovery that plants’ chlorophyll molecules act at the quantum mechanical level to maximize energy harvested from the sun. Yet, when it comes to understanding biotechnology innovations, the general public is sadly misinformed about the science. Unfounded fears have prompted the European Union to placed stringent controls on the use and growth of GMO crops, and many EU countries require permits to do basic molecular biology and genetic engineering.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Biomimicry Enters Academic Mainstream with ASU Center

Scientists and inventors have long turned to nature for inspiration.

Arizona State University will launch a new Biomimicry Center devoted to the research and development of initiatives that use nature’s own time-tested strategies to tackle our biggest sustainability challenges. A joint venture of ASU and Biomimicry 3.8, the Biomimicry Center will kick off March 3 with an interactive symposium of lectures, discussion, and hands-on activities at ASU’s Tempe campus. The center’s aim is to bring together the expertise of a wide range of disciplines—including biology, chemistry, engineering, business, material science, psychology, design, and architecture—to create a new multipronged approach to sustainability.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Opinion

Why It’s So Hard for Americans to Talk About Science

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Talking about science is a lot harder than it should be. We talk all the time about things we don’t fully understand: the polar vortex, how footballs can get underinflated during games, why the Kardashians still get so much attention. We’re not experts in these areas, but we’re happy to weigh in with theories and opinions. But when it comes to scientific topics, both scientists and lay people hide behind the excuse that the general public in this country simply doesn’t have the education to process such complex information.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare Opinion

Obama’s Not-So-Daring Precision Medicine Plan

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For all the attention that President Obama’s precision medicine initiative has garnered in the weeks since he first mentioned it in his State of the Union address, you’d think the program was the next version of the Human Genome Project. But unlike that effort, which was a wildly audacious push to revolutionize biology and medicine, the modest new initiative—and its $215 million price tag—seems downright underwhelming.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

Are 23andMe Customers Suckers or Empowered Consumers?

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Direct-to-consumer genomics company 23andMe announced two research partnerships with pharmaceutical companies earlier this month. Since then, a lot of pundits have sounded positively appalled by the development. It reminds me of that great scene in "Casablanca" when Captain Renault says, “I’m shocked—shocked—to find that gambling is going on in here!” as he collects his own winnings.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

U.S. Risks Losing Its Lead in Synthetic Biology, Expert Says

Nancy J. Kelley spoke at the Techonomy Bio conference this June in Mountain View, Calif.

American scientists pioneered the field of synthetic biology, and the U.S. government funded the research that catalyzed commercialization of its earliest products. But unless key players in the U.S. get their act together soon, other nations will dominate the booming multibillion-dollar industry. “What is at stake here is the future competitive advantage of countries, especially the U.S.,” says Nancy J. Kelley.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Talking About Biology’s Grass Roots Revolution

From left, Marcus Wohlsen, Nancy J. Kelley, Floyd Romesberg, Brian Frezza, and Drew Endy

“As a reporter who’s covered both biotech and what the rest of the world calls just plain ‘tech,’ I can tell you those stories about biology can be tougher to tell,” said WIRED senior writer Marcus Wohlsen during a session, entitled "The Next Revolution Will Be Biologized," that he moderated at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay last week. Wholsen shared the stage with a panel of the sector’s thought leaders: attorney and consultant Nancy Kelley; chemical biologist Floyd Romesberg of The Scripps Research Institute; synthetic biology pioneer Drew Endy of Stanford University; and Brian Frezza, founder of “biotech lab for hire” Emerald Therapeutics.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

From Here to Where? Following the Brain Map

The human brain, a super organ of around 100 billion nerve cells, remains the single most powerful, complex and least understood computer on the planet. Cracking its code will allow us to better utilize our brains, and to drive the creation of better artificial intelligences. The applications span from marketing to medicine and education to warfare. How will how we work, live and play be changed by these new neuro-discoveries? Ed Boyden, associate professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute, explores the frontier of brain mapping in this talk at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Innovating Tools for Quantifying the Self, and Future Self

From left, Marcus Wohlson of WIRED, Autodesk's Carlos Oguin, Drew Purves of Microsoft Research, and BioCurious co-founder Eri Gentry

The quantified-self movement is rapidly moving beyond the Fitbit. Forget about wristbands to measure your vitals. DIYers known as Grinders are embedding electronics in their own bodies; transcranial direct-current stimulation experimentalists are putting wet sponges on their heads to improve cognitive function; and others, hoping to enhance their relationships with pets, are investing millions into developing EEG headsets that let them read dog thoughts. Eri Gentry, Carlos Olguin, and Drew Purves, all innovators at the fore of the field, joined WIRED writer Marcus Wohlsen at Techonomy 2014 on Monday for a conversation exploring what we mean when we talk about "innovating ourselves."   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events Video

The Next Revolution Will Be Biologized

Innovation in biology is accelerating at a rate that makes Moore’s Law look leisurely, throwing open doors to opportunities unimaginable. From food to fuel, manufacturing to medicine, business to buildings, what do the visionaries see just beyond the horizon? Stanford's Drew Endy, Brian Frezza of Emerald Therapeutics, Nancy J. Kelley of the New York Genome Center, and Floyd Romesberg of The Scripps Research Institute discuss the social and economic impact of biotech in this discussion, moderated by Marcus Wohlsen of WIRED, from the opening day of the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Synthetic Biology’s Future Assembled in Boston Last Weekend

iGEM 2014 participants. (Photo; 2014.igem.org)

iGEM challenges multidisciplinary student teams to solve real-world problems with entirely new biological systems that they design and build from interchangeable sequences of DNA. The assembly last Monday marked the final segment of the 2014 International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition, and the culmination of a weekend of intense bonding, as well as dancing and drinking, among the world’s most brilliant young bioengineers.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Could Genomics Revive the Eugenics Movement?

(Image courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.)

An NYU exhibit about the history of the eugenics movement is more than a look back: it’s a timely reminder in the age of genomics that we have a social responsibility to consider not only what’s medically and scientifically possible, but also the potential social consequences. Otherwise we could start making decisions that future generations would find to be as shameful as 20th century eugenics appears to us.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

Could DNA Tools Help Manage Ebola?

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Recent innovations in DNA analysis have given scientists and epidemiologists new ways to track and treat outbreaks, and many of these tools are already being deployed in the battle against Ebola and other diseases. Technologies at work today, as well as those expected in the years to come, will be of real utility in helping the biomedical community understand these pathogens better, provide a real-time warning system about outbreaks, and trace their source and spread over time.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Breakout Labs Aims to Take Science from the Lab to Supercharge the Economy

How do scientists working on radical new ideas translate ingenuity into sustainable business models? And how do entrepreneurs find the science they might need to create a breakthrough biotech product? Lab coats have to brush up against business suits. Breakout Labs, a seed fund project of Peter Thiel's Thiel Foundation, makes it happen. The fund seeks to help early-stage science and technology companies "break out" of the lab and into the business world with grants of up to $350,000. This helps companies achieve “very specific scientific milestones,” says Breakout Labs Executive Director Lindy Fishburne.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

Our Era of Preventive Genetic Screening: Brought to You in Part by Mary-Claire King

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Two decades ago, Mary-Claire King made one of the most important contributions to modern healthcare when she discovered the first gene linked to breast cancer. Now, she’s trying to one-up herself. King, a genetics pioneer who won a major scientific award this week from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, has issued a call to change how we think about gene testing in an approach she believes will prevent cancer, not just catch it early. (And if you’ve never met King, the fact that she’s using her award to shed light on a serious public health need rather than to celebrate her own career tells you a little something about her character.)   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

Scripps Bio-Chemist Romesberg: Proteins and Enzymes Could Transform Industry and Medicine

How can a better understanding of evolution help us improve human health? Renowned bio-chemist Floyd Romesberg of the Scripps Research Institute can think of a few ways. For one, cancer cells evolve and grow by “out-competing” neighboring cells, a process Romesberg calls “evolution just run faster than we’re used to.” We spoke to Romesberg at our recent Techonomy Bio event in Mountain View, Calif. He says understanding how our genomes have evolved will give us insights into the genetic diseases we get, and help us treat them. But to fully comprehend the evolutionary process, we have to look at proteins. “Understanding how proteins function is absolutely essential to our understanding of life,” said Romesberg.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Are Scientists Selfish?

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We often hear that scientists hoard data, refusing to share information even when doing so might speed advances to patients in dire need. It’s not just about sharing results on the fly—once a project has been completed and findings published in a journal, most of us observers outside major institutions still can’t get access due to expensive subscriptions. The situation is made all the more unpalatable since most biomedical research is funded by taxpayer dollars. Yet the average taxpayer has little ability to see what comes of that funding.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

Could Reprogrammed Cells Fight “Untreatable” Diseases?

Loring (front row, center) and her team at the Center for Regenerative Medicine. (Image via www.scripps.edu)

Jeanne Loring and her Scripps Research Institute colleagues transplanted a set of cells into the spinal cords of mice that had lost use of their hind limbs to multiple sclerosis. As the experimentalists expected, within a week, the mice rejected the cells. But after another week, the mice began to walk. "We thought that they wouldn't do anything," says Loring, who directs the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Scripps. But as her lab has since shown numerous times, something that these particular so-called "neural precursor cells" do before the immune system kicks them out seems to make the mouse better.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Talking to “Biologist’s Imagination” Author William Hoffman

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In a new book called "The Biologist’s Imagination," authors William Hoffman and Leo Furcht from the University of Minnesota Medical School take a spin through the history of biological innovation in an effort to shed light on current trends and expected future developments. The authors weave historical threads—such as pioneering studies of genetic traits in the mid-19th century and the effects of the animals and diseases brought to the Americas in the wake of Columbus crossing the Atlantic—to help readers make sense of what’s happening today.The book covers a number of topics relevant to Techonomy, so we chatted with Hoffman to find out more.   More