John Cumbers, Founder of SynBioBeta
0:00 Turning biology into a tech discipline
7:29 Over 1 billion invested worldwide
11:00 A movement based on cheaply synthesizing DNA
14:29 A fashion runway for synbio
19:21 Still excited about Mars?
What does it take to make it in synthetic biology in 2017?
Working as a bio engineer at NASA, John Cumbers founded SynBioBeta, the primary “activity hub” for the synthetic biology community. SynBioBeta will be putting on their sixth conference this year in San Francisco, along with conferences in London and Singapore. The young industry has seen a flourish of startups working on new genome engineering tools and a dizzying array of applications that include synthetic animal meat and synthetic human skin. Last month John partnered with Data Collective to launch a new seed stage fund for this space.
John is not only interested in startups. Currently writing a book with the working title, “What’s Your Bio Strategy?”, he is provoking existing companies to consider using biology as technology.
“The book is designed to be something we could take into [Apple CEO] Tim Cook’s office, and ask him what’s your bio strategy. And he says, 'I don’t have a bio strategy.' So you put the book on his desk and say give me a call if we can help you to develop one.”
When we first talked with John, he was heading up a program at NASA to develop building materials for use on Mars. Five years later, is John's number one goal in life still to settle the solar system?