John Cumbers Previews SynBioBeta 2013


John Cumbers, PhD, Synthetic Biologist, NASA Ames

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (4:03) Synbio in UK

Listen (1:45) Intrexon IPO and consumer space

Listen (5:30) Crowdfunding and its discontent

Listen (2:39) GMO OMG

Listen (4:52) Trouble in the DIY space?

Listen (3:21) Resveratrol yogurt

Listen (4:06) Highlights of upcoming SynBioBeta conference

Joining us to kick off a new SynBio Series is John Cumbers, founder of SynBioBeta. Cumbers and his team puts on the annual conference for the synthetic biology community in San Francisco each year. The next one is scheduled for Nov 15, 2013. In today's show, John previews the upcoming conference and reviews some of the events of the past year: the Intrexon IPO, the crowdfunded Glowing Plants Project, and other happenings in this exciting space.

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."

The Very Angry Evolutionary Biologist


Dan Graur, PhD, Professor, University of Houston Bio and Contact Info

Listen (3:09) Study of biology overtaken by hype

Listen (4:55) Scientist vs. technician

Listen (6:34) Public unaware that all they eat are GMOs

Listen (3:58) Do you have a role as a scientist to reach out to the lay audience?

Listen (2:27) What was your reaction to gene patent decision?

Listen (1:43) Thoughts on clinical genomics

Listen (2:04) Twitter and the Very Angry Evolutionary Biologist

We're happy to welcome Dan Graur, Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Houston, back to the program. Dan and his colleagues caused a stir in the world of genetics with their publication "On the Immortality of Television Sets," a sarcastic and witty criticism of the ENCODE Project and ensuing claims about the death of "junk DNA."

In today's interview, Graur says that he's always been a critic of bad science. He sees a trend where technicians and tools folks are masquerading as scientists.

"What happened in recent years," he says, "is that we have a huge influx of people who are not versed in the basics of population genetics and molecular evolution, and such. They are all essentially people who know how to write computer programs, who believe that science is not driven by questions, but it's driven by a sort of high tech natural history--the data will tell us what is in there."

Is not biology an information science? Does not the new biologist need to be a bioinformatician as well? Graur says we do not need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to basic science. (We'll be pursuing this question in an upcoming series, "The Bioinformatician Bottleneck")

Graur is currently working on a book about GMOs for the lay audience. He also shares his thoughts on gene patents, clinical genomes, and that marvelous "time waster", Twitter.

Podcast brought to you by: See your company name here. - Promote your organization by aligning it with today's latest trends.

Transparency the Best PR Strategy, Says Arcadia Bio CEO, Eric Rey


Eric Rey, CEO, Arcadia Biosciences

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (6:46) Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Listen (6:38) Where are you finding commercial success?

Listen (2:14) Tilling - a non transgenic platform

Listen (5:43) Best PR comes from being open and honest

Listen (2:05) Understanding GM backlash

Listen (6:13) Food labeling

Arcadia Biosciences is a company in Davis, California that has been developing GM (genetically modified) plants for farmers for over ten years. Their lead product, NUE or nitrogen use efficiency, has been licensed out to agricultural partners around the world. Arcadia CEO, Eric Rey, joins us to explain where the company has found success in those ten years. He discusses Arcadia's science, their business model, and insists the best strategy for overcoming the challenge of GM backlash is in being "as open and honest as possible."

Some of the strongest resistance to genetically modifying crops comes from Eric's home turf, Berkeley, California, which he's quick to remind us is "not the bastion of conservative thinking." Eric finds it ironic that those who are willing to consider the facts about climate change have a hard time doing the same about the GM products his company is producing. Concluding the interview, Eric takes on the recent political push to require labeling for GM foods.

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."

Biotech, Policy, and the 2012 Election with Lee Silver

Podcast brought to you by: See your company name here. - Promote your organization and align it with today's latest trends.


Lee M. Silver, PhD, Princeton University Bio and Contact Info

Listen (5:56) What is at stake for biotech in the 2012 election?

Listen (2:05) What do you say to those who insist science should not be on the dole?

Listen (7:39) What is your take on the recent report by Obama's Bioethics Panel?

Listen (6:14) California's Prop 37 a "stupid" thing

Listen (5:56) Controversy over bird flu virus not an easy one

Listen (11:54) GenePeeks offers better filtering at sperm banks

Listen (1:13) Is the consumer genetics movement over?

Lee Silver is an expert on biotech and public policy at Princeton University. He is the author of several books including, Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Remake the American Family. No time is better to get the thoughts of the renowned author than election season.

Silver has been outspoken about biotech policy differences between the Bush and the Obama administrations, and we ask him to extend his thoughts on the upcoming election. He also weighs in on California's Prop 37 requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. Lee says it's a "stupid" thing. That even if the law is passed, it is not even doable.

Other topics include the controversy over the modification of the bird flu virus and whether the science should have been published, and GenePeeks, Silver's new company that is creating virtual children.

Genetics and the Future of Wine Making with Sean Myles, Nova Scotia Agricultural College

Podcast Sponsor: IDT- gBlocks(TM) Gene Fragments Synthetic biology for any lab


Sean Myles, PhD, Ass. Professor, Nova Scotia Agricultural College Bio and Contact Info

Listen (2:29) Honey crisp apple a mistake

Listen (6:33) Genetics and crop breeding

Listen (3:26) Pesticides or GMOs?

Listen (6:12) Cultivated grapes not having enough sex

Listen (8:03) A future with more varietals to choose from

Listen (3:32) Especially inspired by the phenotype of the wine grape

Sean Myles is interested in the sex life of wine grapes and apples. At the Nova Scotia Agricultural College he is focusing on using genetic data to detect and dissect the effects of domestication and breeding on crops. Sean talks about how genetics is changing the future of wine making. While he is not genetically altering plants himself, he discusses the tradeoff between pesticides and GMOs. Sean received his PhD in Genetics from the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany. His undergraduate was in English Literature. His wife is a winemaker in Nova Scotia.

New to Mendelspod?

We advance life science research, connecting people and ideas.
Register here to receive our newsletter.

or skip signup