Bio & Life Sciences Partner Insights

Five Points for Improving Public Discourse on Science and Tech

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Innovation in science and technology is moving at a pace unprecedented in history. Every month seems to introduce vast new frontiers. Five years ago, how many of us had conceived of living buildings made of mushroom, bones that grow themselves, self-driving cars, or “mental prosthetics”? These advancements bring tremendous promise for nearly every facet of life, but many also bring daunting potential threats. Questions about unethical use, accidents, privacy/security breaches, and safety all rightly raise concern. In recent months, we’ve heard some of our most respected leaders voice their anxieties, from Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking on artificial intelligence to a group of leading scientists calling for a moratorium on a new genome editing technique. The global public feels the same way. Respondents in Edelman’s 2015 Annual Trust Barometer consider the pace of development in business and industry to be “too fast” by a 2:1 margin, and make strong calls for more regulation across almost every industry.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

As Consumers Access Own Health Data, Market for Interpreting It Will Grow

From left, Stephanie Lee, Jennifer Tye, Walter De Brouwer, Ajay Royyuru, and Steve Axelrod. (Photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

Whether by gathering data from your gut, your womb, or your head, new digital devices are designed to track wellness in ways that could transform how individuals manage their own health. Four leaders of the emerging “Internet of Bio Things” market joined Buzzfeed News reporter Stephanie Lee on stage at Techonomy Bio 2015 for a discussion about how they aim to improve consumer access to health data, and what will render that data more than just a curiosity, and truly useful.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

A Software Chairman and a Public Health CEO Agree: the Pace of Digital Health Is Pitiful

Marc Benioff and Sue Desmond-Hellman appear onstage together at Techonomy Bio 2015. (Photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

For an onstage conversation at Techonomy Bio 2015 about how science is advancing human progress around the world and where the greatest challenges still remain, Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Marc Benioff might seem an unlikely pair. She’s an oncologist accomplished in biotech, academia, and, now, the nonprofit sector as CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Benioff is chairman of the customer relationship management software company Salesforce.com. But, as the two agreed here on Wednesday, more crossover between his sector—information technology—and hers—healthcare—are exactly what’s needed for great leaps forward in life sciences.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Predicting a Future Where Products Are Parented and Grown

From left, David Kirkpatrick, Chris Waller, David Glazer, Steve Jurvetson, and Drew Endy. (Photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

Waving his smartphone at the audience, Stanford bioengineer Drew Endy said, “I’m trying to grow one of these.” Let the day of mindblowing conversations about the future of biology begin. Endy joined Google Director of Engineering David Glazer, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, and Merck Director of Scientific Modeling Platforms Chris Waller for the TE Bio 15 opening panel, “You Say You Want a Revolution.” Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick moderated the discussion about how innovations at the intersection of IT and biology will transform industries and products beyond life sciences.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Next Week’s Techonomy Bio: A Focus on Systems of Life

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At last year's Techonomy Bio, we put venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson on a panel of investors. In his enthusiasm for the unbridled potential of innovation in the life sciences to transform society, Jurvetson at one point said "we're sitting on a can of miracles." Why a can? He did not say, but his observation became a kind of touchstone for us at Techonomy for why we continue to build this event. "Sitting on a Can of Miracles" is what we're calling this year's session on investing in bio-progress. Jurvetson himself we have promoted to our opening panel, which our Director of Programs Alex Cudaback christened "You Say You Want a Revolution?" Here we ask where we'll see the most impact from life sciences innovation, and how information technology is driving bio-progress.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Startup Culture

The New Biohackers: How (and Where) They Work

Larry Melnick, left, and Andy Berks chat over lunch in the common kitchen area of Brooklyn-based community biolab Genspace. (Image via Ellen Jorgensen)

In a laboratory in New York City, molecular biologist Roy Buchanan is finishing up at the bench for the day. It is eight o’clock in the evening, and while late night work is a familiar scenario for most scientists, the presence of Buchanan’s two young sons playing a game in the common area outside the lab is not. “My wife let me work on this project only if I promised to continue sharing the child care responsibilities,” he explains. A computer programmer by day, Buchanan pursues a self-funded genome editing project in his spare time, enabled by the shared facilities and low price point of Genspace, a community biolab in Brooklyn. Buchanan is not alone. The economic downturn has resulted in a surfeit of unemployed and underemployed scientific experts itching to get back into the lab and flex their underused intellectual muscles.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

A Glowing Plant: the First Fruit of “Digitized” Genetic Engineering

(Image via Glowing Plant)

Synthetic biology is entering an exciting new phase. An ecosystem of companies is now developing services to enable faster, cheaper, and better genetic engineering. They are, in effect, "digitizing" genetic engineering through relatively inexpensive cloud-based and robotic laboratories that bring capabilities that were once the exclusive domain of large corporations to academic groups and small startups. To use an old computing analogy, this is biotech’s PC moment: Digitization allows those without technical expertise to operate at higher, more abstract levels. The digital keys to synthetic biology—reproducibility and protocol sharing—could make biological apps as easy to develop as mobile apps are today.   More

Analytics & Data Bio & Life Sciences

How to Get and Protect Your Genetic Data

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Maybe it was the Jolie effect. Or you want to find out if you’re carrying a silent genetic mutation that could be passed on to a child. Or perhaps you’re just really hoping you can blame your DNA for how awful cilantro tastes. Whatever the reason, you’re interested in finding out something about your genome. Now what? Though consumer genetic testing and personal genome sequencing are still nascent fields, every indication suggests that the public will have a virtually insatiable appetite for genetic data. And as scientists get better at establishing links between DNA and diseases or specific traits, that demand will only increase. But are we ready for this data?   More

Bio & Life Sciences

How Biotech Can Help Feed the Planet

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It's going to be a big global challenge to feed our growing population without destroying the environment. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that worldwide food supply must increase by 70 percent by 2050. We don't just need calories; we need nutritious calories that reduce the risk of disease. Chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes impair quality of life and burden the global healthcare system.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare Internet of Things

The IoT of Health: Big Data Can Make Us Healthier

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has a lot to offer in the medical realm, but such connectivity lags far behind what's happening with other consumer goods and electronics. A few early glimpses of possibilities in this field show there are tremendous advantages to be had if we can get past these current hurdles and establish a bio-based IoT. (A session entitled "The Internet of (Bio)things" at the upcoming Techonomy Bio conference on March 25 in Mountain View explores this question.)   More

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

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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 place 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