Bio & Life Sciences Finance Startup Culture

How Crowdsourcing Can Help Fund Science

A project on science crowd funding site Experiment.

This morning, I helped analyze fish scales to better track migration patterns, by giving the scientists some cash. Crowdfunding has made a difference in all sorts of initiatives, so it’s no surprise to see it pop up in science. Experiment was built by scientists who believe alternative funding could fill a key gap in research.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Government Techonomy Events

Growing Bones and On-Demand Joints: Top Picks from TE Bio and Policy

At TE Policy: from left, Sean Parker, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Deb Fischer, David Kirkpatrick

This year's Techonomy Bio and Policy conferences examined critical fields being altered by the progress of tech. We covered everything from growing bones to decoding the brain at TE Bio in March. Then TE Policy explored the not always happy confluence of tech innovation and government. We had briefings on Blockchain and the Internet of Things, and deep dives on cyberwar and the European single digital market. We closed with Senators Booker and Fischer and the inimitable Sean Parker on tech, innovation and American progress.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Global Tech Startup Culture

Lebanon’s Unlikely Hydroponic Farmer Wants to Change Local Agriculture

Pictured from Left to Right: Christian Sakr, Mahmoud Hossari, Ali Makhzoum, Ali Awad, and Celine Sakr.

Ali Makhzoum thinks his hydroponic farming system can increase farmers’ yields, decrease the labor needed to harvest and reduce the water requirements by up to 90 percent. His Life Labs systems, developed in Beirut, are automated, self-contained, and, Makhzoum hopes, “smart”--with the ability to govern themselves.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Business

Can Hot Consumer Genomics Startup Helix Keep the FDA at Bay?

image from Shutterstock

A new company launched by the market leader in DNA sequencing aims to bring genomics to the masses. Helix, kicked off on August 18 with a capital injection of more than $100 million, appears to embrace a direct-to-consumer approach that hasn’t been seen since pioneer 23andMe's ready-to-mail spit kits. Given the FDA’s firm pushback against 23andMe, though, does Helix has a bright future?   More

Bio & Life Sciences

No Longer Rocket Science: Helping Consumers Understand Genetic Info

At the first Map-Ed competition. Photo via

A decade ago, biologist Ting Wu saw a need to promote education and interest in genetics among consumers, as well as to help scientists understand how the public views their research. Today, the initiative that resulted helps teachers and students, scientists, Congress, and even Hollywood writers and producers understand and spread the message that genetics is important and accessible.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Internet of Things

I Heart This Overlooked Feature of the Apple Watch

(Image via Shutterstock)

One of the features that most intrigues me about the Apple Watch is the one that lets you share heartbeats. It’s the sound you hear when you’re being held by someone you love. It’s something that encapsulates our humanity. It’s one of the first ways an expectant mother connects with her child—the fetal heartbeat heard via ultrasound. This little feature has been overlooked in many of the product reviews. I am fascinated by a technological connection that fosters intimacy between two people physically regardless of where they are. Unlike FaceTime or Skype, which replicate a lesser version of someone’s visual presence, sharing a heartbeat pioneers a new realm of digital intimacy that links our bodies and our devices in a new dance of tactile connectivity.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Challenges for Genomics in the Age of Big Data

(Image via Shutterstock)

Last week, a group of respected researchers published a commentary about the coming data challenges in genomics. Comparing the projected growth of genomic data to three other sources considered among the most prolific data producers in the world—astronomy, Twitter, and YouTube—these scientists predict that by 2025, genomics could well represent the biggest of big data fields. With the raw data for each human genome taking up about 100 GB, we’re well on our way. Genomics only recently entered the big data realm, and we have major issues to address before it leapfrogs every other data-generating group.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Will Even a Cholesterol Test Help Identify Cancer?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Early detection is one of the most effective ways to beat cancer. That’s why some recent studies, in which scientists detected it in people long before symptoms began, have cancer researchers so excited. The coolest part? These scientists weren’t even looking for signs of cancer. DNA-based detection tools have gotten sensitive enough that it now appears possible to identify precancerous cells. This ability to spot precancerous cells could become pivotal in oncology. It could also be problematic.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Government

For Genome Editing, Self-Regulation Beats a Government Ban

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A breakthrough method that makes editing the genes of living beings relatively easy, called CRISPR, is much in the news these days. So are the many implications—both terrifying and promising—associated with it. The seemingly endless possibilities of genome editing have even the scientific community on edge, and it’s stirring up heated debate about where the ethical limits are. At the moment, most of the calls for restraint in the use of CRISPR are coming directly from scientists, but it won’t be long before government officials or candidates hoping to be elected start airing their opinions about how this field should be regulated. It’s worth taking a moment to consider how different modes of oversight could affect the opportunities afforded us by genome editing.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Internet of Things

Latin American Entrepreneurs Pioneer Healthcare Tech

Conceived during the depths of the economic recession, MassChallenge is a startup accelerator that supports early-stage entrepreneurs. At last month's WEF Latin America event in Mexico, MassChallenge founder and CEO John Harthorne talked with Techonomy partner Hub Culture, explaining the accelerator's work to shift more of the economy toward startup efforts, creating "more pie" for entrepreneurs rather than forcing them to "fight each other over slices of pie."   More

Bio & Life Sciences

National Academy of Sciences Wades into CRISPR-Cas9 Debate

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In response to growing concerns about the potential application of CRISPR-Cas9 technology, the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine are convening an international summit this fall to “explore the scientific, ethical, and policy issues associated with human gene-editing research." If you think of a genome as a manuscript, full of extraneous, unnecessary, sometimes flat-out harmful material, the CRISPR-Cas9 technique can be likened to an incredibly useful editing tool. In biological circles, the conversation is heated. Some see remarkable opportunities to prevent the kinds of genetic diseases that impact millions of people a year, things like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, hemophilia, and more. Others see yet another Pandora’s box that could lead to things like designer babies or the unintended genetic mutations that lead to unimaginable consequences.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Why Genetic Tests May Call For a Second Opinion

(Image via Shutterstock)

When you get your cholesterol levels after a blood test, you may grumble about the new diet your doctor recommends or the statins you have to take—but you probably don’t wonder whether the levels were wrong. We know clinical lab results are tightly regulated, so we take their accuracy as a given. Assuming the same thing about lab results from a genetic test, however, could be a mistake.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Could a Microbe Transplant Make You Thinner? (And Other Amazing Things About Bacteria and Antibiotics)

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We are in the earliest days of understanding the human microbiome—the communities of microbes that live in and on our bodies—but already scientists are getting a sense of the incredible complexity of this ecosystem and its interaction with us. These advances were made possible just in the past decade by the latest DNA sequencers and other technologies that can scan and analyze huge numbers of microbes at a time. This understanding may enable radical new techniques for weight control, among other revolutionary implications.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events Video

Great Short “Bio” Videos from Techonomy’s Chief Program Officer

As we wrapped our second Techonomy Bio conference a couple of weeks ago, it got me thinking about how many interesting “bio” related 180s we've produced in recent years. Our “180° Talks” are three-minute presentations in which the speaker aims to change the audience’s mind about a generally accepted paradigm, or tells us about something they’ve reversed their thinking about. My all time favourite is from Techonomy 2011. Andrew Hessel, then at Singularity University and now at Autodesk, spoke about biotech, procreation, computer-assisted genetic design, and his decision to get a vasectomy.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Your Next Prescription Could Be a Genome Sequence

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At Advances in Genome Biology and Technology, a conference for genomic scientists held earlier this year, one speaker told attendees that the use of genome sequencing to improve patient care is no longer a far-off goal—it’s happening today. While you won’t encounter genome sequencing on an average visit to the ER, there are certain clinical areas where this technology has indeed become routine: cancer, pediatric care, the diagnosis and treatment of ultra rare diseases, and a few others.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare Techonomy Events

How Techonomy Bio Inspired My Southeast Asian Healthcare Journey

A sign for a Thai pharmacy. (Photo by Will Greene)

Last year, I watched the inaugural Techonomy Bio conference from a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. At the time, I was working on my first healthcare consulting project—a market research study for German medical device manufacturers interested in Vietnam. I spent my days interviewing suppliers, distributors, purchasers, regulators, and other stakeholders, trying to make sense of the snarled Vietnamese healthcare system. Due to the time difference between Vietnam and America, I couldn’t catch the live webcast of the conference, but in the week after the event, I ended each day by kicking up my feet and watching video footage of the 2014 conference sessions on my laptop. Watching those videos hammered home the fact that in both developed and developing countries, much of modern healthcare is fundamentally broken.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

Meat Without Animals and Sequencing the Planet at Techonomy Bio

(Photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

The over 200 people who descended on the Computer History Museum in the heart of Silicon Valley last week for the second annual Techonomy Bio event learned we were heading toward growing meat, cell phones, and houses. They learned as well that we are in a renaissance of progress in human health. But they also heard thoughts on why we have more allergies and worries about how the public thinks about science. The daylong program ranged from stem cells and bio-architecture to venture capital and public opinion about science, but the common thread was the intersection of progress in the dual realms of life science and information technology. As speakers noted throughout the day, the intersection of big data and biology has helped create a field ripe for breakthroughs.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Partner Insights Techonomy Events

Five Points to Improve Public Discourse on Science

At Techonomy Bio 2015, attendees watch panelists (from left) Theral Timpson, Erika Check Hayden, Kristen Bole, Ryan Bethencourt, and Ellen Jorgensen speak at a session entitled "Science, Fear, and the Communication Game." (Photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

Innovation in science and technology is moving at an unprecedented pace. Five years ago, how many of us had conceived of bones that grow themselves, self-driving cars, or "mental prosthetics"? These advancements bring tremendous promise, but many also bring daunting potential threats. Questions about unethical use, accidents, privacy/security breaches, and safety all rightly raise concern. But clear, open-minded public debate around technological and scientific topics is sorely lacking. Large gaps in knowledge and unchecked emotions are keeping us from rational conversations about merits and risks.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Techonomy Events

As Consumers Access Health Data, a New Market Emerges

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

Marc Benioff and Gates Foundation’s Desmond-Hellmann Agree: Digital Health So Far 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 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