GMOs


November 2019 with Nathan and Laura: Happy Birthday CRISPR Babies, 23andMe for Embryo Selection, and Golden Rice, Almost

The gene edited babies, Lulu and Nana, turn one. Laura Hercher says it feels like it’s been five years. Nathan says, “Happy Birthday.”

Along with our genomics headline party this month, we also discuss a comment that came in from our last show which leads us to the question, can we discuss science without discussing politics?

It’s Nathan, Laura and Theral for almost a full hour sifting through November’s news.

The Meteoric Rise of Twist Bioscience and the Wild Demand for DNA: Emily Leproust, CEO

In 2013 Twist Bioscience was a newcomer to a market that most of us thought was saturated, cornered, commoditized—that of synthetic DNA. But Emily Leproust and her co-founders saw something different. They saw "a big market with unhappy customers.” Today, with a radically disruptive technology, they are market dominant. Twist is a publicly traded company whose stock has doubled already once since they IPOd last year. Imagine, a DNA synthesis company going public! And then seeing their stock perform so well. This is tricky for the most hyped of tech or biotech startups.

And the demand for DNA is only going up, and dramatically up. When Twist signed a deal with Gingko Bioworks in 2017 for 1 billion bases, that single order was bigger than the entire market two years previous.

Today, for the first time the Twist CEO joins us on the program to talk about where her company came from (another planet?!) and about why there is such demand for DNA. What applications should we know most about? Is all this demand the result of hyped up investment, or are the products going to market?

“Synthetic biology is currently changing our lives and people don’t even realize it. People won’t say, 'oh that’s cool synthetic biology.' They won’t. They’ll just know they have a leather jacket. And there’s no cows harmed in the making of that leather jacket because that leather jacket was created from kampuchea and synthetic biology. And I think that’s the future of the impact of our industry.”

'The Movement:' John Cumbers Previews the Rapidly Growing SynBioBeta 2019

Synthetic biology is experiencing a second renaissance and the place to be this October 1-3 is at the SynBioBeta conference in San Francisco.

For those of you who are going, today’s show is your preview. For those of you who need a nudge, just listen to what conference founder, John Cumbers, has conjured up in this biggest and most diverse lineup yet.

For the rest of you curious folk out there who have been hearing the term synthetic biology every time you turn around in the past year, WARNING: today’s interview has so much cool stuff, please do not listen while operating a motor vehicle or running on the treadmill. If you’re pipetting or running an experiment, stop, listen, and proceed later.

Arcadia Biosciences Pivots to Bring Us Non-GMO, High Fiber GoodWheat and Better Cannabis

Today we're joined by Matt Plavan, President of Arcadia Specialty Genomics.

The last time we talked with someone from Arcadia Bioscience, a biotech company working on plant genomics in Davis, California, they were confronting GMO regulatory hurdles.

Which was a pity. They had created these great new strains of rice and soybeans, among other crops, that were being held from market due to regulations in Southeast Asia. This at a time when world population is . . . well, you know what its doing.

That was then. Today Arcadia has pivoted to some new crops with some new technology. They have developed a new fiber rich wheat called GoodWheat(TM) that is also lower in gluten and thus matches our modern diets. (And as the author can attest, it's quite tasty in pasta.)  The other cool thing about this wheat is that it is not GM according to most regulatory agencies.

Developed with a technology called “tilling,” the wheat is considered “gene-edited” but not genetically modified and therefore not regulated by most countries. For example, see the ruling made by Australia in the last month.

The company has also set up a division to improve the cannabis seed which, because of its illegality, was bypassed by the two crop revolutions of the past fifty years. You might be familiar with THC and CBD, two main cannabinoids in the plant. But did you know there are 250 such cannabinoids that might prove . . . well, interesting?

 

April 2019 Review with Nathan and Laura: uBiome Raided by FBI, PRS for Obesity, and a Gene Therapy Cure

April was a tough month for some genomics companies. The FBI raided the offices of uBiome and two other pioneers in the field failed. Are there broader implications?

Nathan and Laura have returned to first give us some facts and then to throw their hats in the ring.

Lots happened this month in the world of DNA. Tune in and catch it all.

Gene and Tonic, July 7, 2016: Vermont's New Law and the Nobel Laureates

On July 1st, Vermont’s GMO labeling law went into effect. All food sold in the state that has been genetically modified has to say so on the label.

While some geneticists are throwing their hands up in the air in total exasperation, others are consulting big food.

“It’s all been genetically modified at some point. So put GM on every piece of food,” reads one consultant’s email. “They’re Vermonters. While you’re changing the labels--which I do understand isn’t cheap--you might as well put, ‘Have a beautiful and pleasant day, Vermont!’”

A Tool to Strengthen the Voice of Science in Online Journalism

Emmanuel Vincent is the founder of Climate Feedback, a project which includes a new tool for scientists to comment directly on climate science news. The tool is a plugin which can be downloaded for free and gives a viewer real time access to the feedback of scientists on a particular online article.  Though the project is just for news about climate science, Emmanuel says in today’s interview, that the project could scale for other science journalism as well. 

What would it take to get something like this up an running for biologists who want to keep journalists honest about such topics as GMOs and the latest in genome editing techniques? Would the model be a non-profit such as Wikipedia, or a company like Reddit? 

Join us in probing a new approach to improving not only science, but the delivery of science to a wider audience.

Gene & Tonic: Disruption in Sequencing, Scientist Politicians, Some Cool Synbio

Join Theral for a quick wrap-up of the week's biotech news:

The biggest news this week has been the flow of stories coming from last week’s AGBT conference held in Florida. This is the annual all out party for the all out darling of our industry, the sequencing space. Like a debutante ball, it’s where anybody who’s anybody comes out and does their curtsy to society.

This year’s debut favorite was no doubt 10X Genomics. It turns out they can almost turn water into wine. Well, almost. What they do is turn short reads into long reads, piggybacking on Illumina’s technology. Have you been following our series on the rise of long read sequencing? It turns out that scientists just decided that they want to actually see the whole genome. Hence the use of long reads.

Illumina has reigned king in sequencing for several years, but their platform is based on short reads. We heard from one of our guests on the program this week that Illumina’s dominance is vulnerable. David Smith at the Mayo Clinic says their platform is about maxed out. Instead he looks for some big stuff from BGI.

Huh? BGI? Isn’t that just Illumina’s platform? Well no. He’s talking about Complete Genomics. Remember them? They were at one time a debut darling then got sold to BGI for a song and a dance. (Every debut is followed by a depression, isn’t it?) But we heard this week that Complete’s still got some juice. David Smith says they’ll be coming out with an assembled human genome for $1,000 come June. That’s an assembled genome.

But this is unofficial. BGI/Complete were not saying anything at AGBT. According to all accounts, the biggest presence at the conference was PacBio. They held this workshop with an incredible lineup of scientific superstars. Temporarily the IQ in the state of Florida rose to the national average.

Craig Venter was there. We heard PacBio flew him in on a private jet with a private security detail.

I mean. Wow. Treatment like the President of the United States.

In fact, I’m going to ask why doesn’t Venter just run for president in 2016? Right, why can’t we have a scientist president? Scientists and technologists are basically in control of the planet anyway. Why not get some on Capitol Hill and recognize them for who they already are.

We found out this week that Harold Varmus is stepping down from the NCI. Why doesn’t he run for a higher office? Why do scientists give up at that level?

Did you see the Science Magazine article this week about the one lone physicist in congress. Bill Foster of Illinois. The news was that he is joining the science committee in the House of Representatives. Wait--there is a scientist committee in congress? So who else is on it then? The lone physicist congressman was quoted in the article:

“There are good conversations to be had on both sides of the aisle. But it’s important that those be fact-based.”

D’ya think?

We asked George Church of Harvard why he doesn’t run for the senate. He looks very senatorial, right? He wrote back and said that if he wanted to hang out with a bunch of Neanderthals, he prefer they be of his own make.

No, he didn’t really say that. We made that up.

But speaking of synthetic biology projects, one of our guests this week is making color changing flowers. You can see it on video. These flowers literally change to another color while you’re watching them. Isn’t it just amazing what mankind can do when we get bored? Next thing you know, we’ll be bringing back smallpox, polio and the measles to the U.S. Because living in the age of vaccines just hasn’t been fun enough.

And that’s Gene & Tonic for Friday March 6th. Stay tuned next week when we’ll continue our conversation on long reads with a researcher from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. We’ll also be talking about arrays in this age of sequencing in an exclusive interview with the CEO of Affymetrix, Frank Witney.

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U.K. Life Science Update with Eliot Forster, MedCity

Guest:

Eliot Forster, Executive Chair, MedCity Bio and Contact Info

Listen (2:54) Cashing in on illustrious life science tradition

Listen (2:56) Culture of collaboration strong in the UK

Listen (5:01) A growing acceptance of GMOs

Listen (4:59) Did you ever think you would see American companies moving to the UK?

Listen (7:49) How goes the shift toward personalized medicine?

From Darwin's seminal work to the discovery of the structure of DNA to the 100K Genomes Project, the U.K. can boast of an illustrious life science tradition. Today, the U.K. government is backing a major push to cash in on that tradition, seeing life science business--from personalized medicine to genetic engineering—as a a major component of their new economy.

MedCity is a non-profit representing the life science community in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. Eliot Forster, Executive Chair of MedCity, joins us to give an update on the U.K.’s bio-economy. With support from the highest offices in government, the life science community there is benefiting from some important trends. Forster says there is a strong culture of collaboration and a regulatory and tax environment that is favoring more innovation.

Forster chuckles at the thought that some American companies are taking advantage of these new trends in England in the form of tax inversions. Thirty years ago, you wouldn't have predicted it, he says.

The commitment to biotech in the U.K. was on full display earlier this year when Prime Minister David Cameron created the new cabinet role of life sciences minister.

“If you’re looking to do work in the life sciences sector--whether a startup or a subsidiary of a major international—come to London, come to Oxford, come to Cambridge,” says Forster. "You’ll be very surprised by what you find, and pleasantly so."

Podcast brought to you by: Chempetitive Group - "We love science. We love marketing. We love the idea of combining the two to make great things happen for your marketing communications."



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