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

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

Diagnosing the First Patient: Genomics to the Rescue

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Nic Volker. Beatrice Rienhoff. Alexis and Noah Beery. If you happen to be a scientist or clinician in the genomics field, you already know the topic of this article just from those four names. Each is a child who suffered from a mysterious or even one-of-a-kind disease. Collectively, they endured years in hospitals, met dozens of doctors, took countless tests to achieve that precious objective: a diagnosis. And for each of these kids, DNA sequencing was critical to providing that answer.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Individualized Cancer Treatment Coming—But Only If Underdogs Prevail

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Decades ago, “personalized medicine” meant “don’t give penicillin to the person who is fatally allergic to it.” Today, the phrase is shorthand for the ambitious but achievable concept of targeting medications to a specific group of people, based on genetic information, disease progression, biomarkers, and other factors. Still, there’s a small but growing force in the biomedical community that takes the notion of “personalized medicine” much further. For them the term is used literally—they aim for treatment options custom-crafted for the unique snowflakes that we are.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

What We Learned at Techonomy Bio

From left, David Kirkpatrick, Floyd Romesberg, Stewart Brand, Jim Flatt, and Steve Levine

Techonomy's offices on Manhattan's West 22d Street have been buzzing ever since our half-day Techonomy Bio conference on June 17. We got an overwhelmingly positive reception for a meeting that brought leading researchers and experts in the life sciences together with IT and Internet thinkers and business generalists. Drew Endy, a Stanford professor who is one of the world's leaders in synthetic biology, on stage called the event "awesome" and said he had never seen such a collection of people in one place. "People in other sectors of technology simply don’t know very much about biology and biology’s economic impact," he said.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Citizen Scientists Accelerate Bio Progress

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As advances in the biological sciences expand, so does their influence on every facet of life. And the people powering that expansion are not just traditionally trained scientists-they’re also regular folks like you and me. The "Participatory Biology" at Techonomy Bio convened traditional scientists Ryan Bethencourt of Berkeley BioLabs and UC Santa Cruz professor David Haussler with Eri Gentry, a self-taught scientist who left the world of finance to co-found the Bay Area biotech hackerspace BioCurious.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Building a Better Mousetrap

In this video from our June 17 Techonomy Bio conference, Jorge Soto of mirOculus gives a short presentation on building better tools for detecting cancer.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Engineering Biology to Address Global Challenges

In this video from our June 17 Techonomy Bio conference, Nancy J. Kelley, former founding executive director of the New York Genome Center, gives a presentation of the economic, social, and regulatory implications of biology.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

The Razor’s Edge

In this video, Todd Huffman of 3Scan explores how knife-edge scanning helps drive biodiscovery.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

The Funding Dilemma

Bio-innovators and entrepreneurs are often frustrated that investors don’t see the scope of biological opportunity. The industry's funding models remain in flux. With appetite for risk unpredictable and a landscape that’s often unexplored, what’s a startup to do? How are big companies responding? In this video, Paul Gurney of McKinsey & Company moderates a discussion with Beth Seidenberg of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lindy Fishburne of Breakout Labs and the Thiel Foundation, and Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Synthetic Genomics, Inc.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

A Life in Bio

In this video from our June 17 Techonomy Bio conference, David Kirkpatrick interviews Beth Seidenberg of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers about her involvement in developing biotech companies.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Participatory Biology

Just as the Internet leveled the playing field for entrepreneurship, politics, and social engagement, recent advances are leveling it for biological progress. Processing power, the cloud, and Internet connectivity open doors for inquisitive individuals and nascent biotech startups. How are ordinary people involving themselves in biology, and what will be their impact? In this video, David Kirkpatrick moderates a discussion with Eri Gentry of BioCurious and the Institute for the Future, Ryan Bethencourt of Berkeley BioLabs and the XPRIZE Foundation, and David Haussler of UC Santa Cruz and HHMI.   More

Bio 14 Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Better, Faster, Cheaper

To beat cancer we need more targeted drugs, made faster, made cheaper. And that means we need to fix the way cancer drugs are made. Andrew Hessel of Autodesk gives a presentation on how we can fix drug development.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Why We Launched the Techonomy Bio Conference

For us here at Techonomy, next Tuesday's Techonomy Bio conference is a catalytic and mind-expanding moment. It's a half-day foray into the systems of life. We come from the world of IT and the Internet, but have concluded that becoming too embedded in it will increasingly be a deep limitation. For any of us to innovate and understand the future progress of mankind, we have to recognize that for all their compelling charms, digital tools are just one part of the toolset. Now that biology yields every day to greater understanding, it is going to pull human society into fundamentally new directions.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Can Synthetic Biology Survive in a World Haunted by “Frankenfood”?

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There is nothing that turns the collective stomach quite like the word “Frankenfood.” It’s an instant warning to avoid such food. Frankenfood, of course, refers to plants that have been genetically modified in some way. GMOs, as these genetically modified organisms are known, have been more or less accepted in some countries such as the U.S., but have been banned in many others due to public outcry, particularly in Europe. It is tough to restore the public image of something once it has acquired such a viscerally-effective label. In the next few decades, it is very unlikely that GMO-based food will become accepted in countries where it is currently banned.   More