synthetic biology


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.”

Genomics Going from a Passive to an Active Science: John Stuelpnagel on the “Write” Revolution

Not many people have had quite the same view on the genomics revolution as John Stuelpnagel. He co-founded Illumina, Ariosa, and Fabric Genomics (formerly Omicia). And he’s the Chairman of Fabric, 10X Genomics, and Inscripta. And not all had the foresight John did that biology would turn out to be so complex.

John is our guest today to preview and describe what he calls the new “writing” phase of genomics, which he says is already underway.

“Genomics has been mostly—and I hope I don’t offend the audience—a passive science. We’re limited by our cohort sets that we can put together. I think the next level of biological discovery is going to be where you can actively perturb the system—it’s called a cell—and then ask what kind of phenotype did we generate."

It’s a fascinating look ahead from one who not only founded some genomics tools companies, but founded several of THE genomics tools companies.

'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.

Over $1 Billion Invested this Past Year: Synthetic Biology in 2017 with John Cumbers

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?

Gene and Tonic: Five Reasons Your Glowing Plants Haven't Arrived Yet

Journalist Antonio Regalado over at MIT Tech Review Raised a stink this past week about the failure of The Glowing Plant project. We wanted to share a few of the additional rumors we’ve heard about why the plants won’t glow.

1. Elizabeth Holmes was the lead advisor.

2. The project has been put on hold while the organizers are in M & A talks with Monsanto.

Is Oxitec Ready to Scale as Governments Seek Options to Control the Zika Virus?

With constant news topping the headlines about the Zika virus, a synthetic biology company out of Oxford England, Oxitec, has been getting some good press. For over ten years now, Oxitec has been developing their genetically engineered mosquitos as a way to lower virus spreading mosquito populations.

When we last talked to Oxitec's CEO, Hadyn Parry, a couple years ago, they were just introducing their genetically engineered mosquitos into a small rural town in Brazil. They've now had trials in the Cayman Islands and Panama as well and received phenomenal results.

“In all of the trials, we’ve got the same result, which is that we’ve controlled the Aeges Aegypti population in a town by over 90 percent,” says Hadyn in today’s interview.

Is the recent panic over the Zika virus helping out the synthetic biology company in terms of PR and regulatory hurdles? And what threat has CRISPR, the new gene editing technology, posed for the company, both in terms of the backlash in media against gene editing and also in lowering the barrier to entry for competitors?

Hadyn says he has always embraced the PR issue head on, and is now giving 2-3 interviews some days. Does he have any suggestions for other synthetic biology companies who also face uphill PR battles?

So That Happened, The Mad Genius, and Selling SynBio

It’s a week of finding out again what we already knew. First that a nobel laureate can also be a total ***hole. And second that creative people really are crazy.

It’s also been a week for going into the future. This week Team Mendelspod attended IndieBio’s Demo Day. Twelve, mostly very young, founder/geeks pitched their new ideas for making the world a better place to a room of investors in downtown San Francisco. We saw some amazing technology, but the real question seems to be, how will they sell these new synthetic biology products?!?.

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#ScienceHack with Connor Dickie, Synbiota

Guest:

Connor Dickie, CEO, Synbiota Bio and Contact Info

Listen (5:13) Has open science really taken off in the life sciences?

Listen (4:58) #ScienceHack

Listen (5:50) A pricey compound

Listen (5:17) How does it scale?

In March of this year at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin Texas, an open science website took home the first prize in the Innovative Technologies category.

Synbiota is an online platform of tools for researchers anywhere in the world to collaborate on synthetic biology projects. This year the platform has launched a new project called #ScienceHack. Here to tell us about the project is Synbiota’s CEO and co-founder, Connor Dickie.

Podcast Sponsor: Integrated DNA Technologies - providing custom double-stranded gBlocks Gene Fragments of up to 2 kb, for easy gene construction.

George Church at 60

Guest:

George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School 

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (6:11) Church's Law

Listen (6:45) Colbert, Der Spiegel and Regenesis

Listen (2:49) Do you have a hobby?

Listen (8:22) The promise of 3D sequencing

Listen (4:42) Is long reads the NGS story of the year?

Listen (6:02) Have you heard any good arguments against GMOs?

Listen (5:46) How much wet lab vs. coding for the new biologist?

Listen (2:57) 60th Birthday Bash

If we have celebrities in the life science industry, George Church of Harvard is one of them. Author, professor, entrepreneur, advisor—the list goes on and on. One of the special things about George is his commitment to advocate for science to the larger community. With everything else he has going on, he makes time to talk on programs like ours.

We launched Mendelspod with a George Church interview. Three years later, it’s a treat to have him on again to talk about his work, career, philosophy, and take a few questions from the audience.

Thanks to IDT for underwriting this show.

Podcast Sponsor: Integrated DNA Technologies - providing custom double-stranded gBlocks Gene Fragments of up to 2 kb, for easy gene construction.

Window on the Life Science Industry: A Conversation with Trey Martin, IDT

Guest:

Martin Trey, COO, Integrated DNA Technologies

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (4:32) The oligo factory

Listen (3:30) How have you stayed relevant in the age of sequencing?

Listen (3:39) A breakthrough in oligo length

Listen (7:18) A window on the industry

Listen (4:12) Thoughts on synbio

DNA. It’s at the core of biology and the life science industry. Integrated DNA Technologies, or IDT has been making DNA for the industry for twenty five years.

Mendelspod has been working for some time now to persuade someone from IDT to come on the program and tell us about their history--how they began, why they're in Coralville, Iowa, and what important trends they're observing.

Beginning a new series entitled Beyond the Oligo, we’re joined by IDT’s Chief Operating Officer, Trey Martin, for a wide ranging discussion about the company beginnings and their unique perspective on a rapidly changing industry.

Further episodes of this series will feature some of IDT's customers-from clinical genomics to synthetic biology-who are using DNA to pioneer dramatic new advances in human health and the way we are moving forward as a species.

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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