Biology is breaking out of the lab and clinic—and into our daily lives. Our new ability to engineer biology is transforming not just science, research, and healthcare, but how we produce our food, the materials we use, how we manufacture, and much, much more. From the latest scientific advances to the biggest trends, this show explores all the ways biology is today where the computing revolution was 50 years ago: on the precipice of revolutionizing our world in ways we are only just beginning to appreciate. Through conversations with scientists, builders, entrepreneurs, and leaders, hosts Hanne Winarsky and Lauren Richardson (along with the team at Andreessen Horowitz), examine how bio is going to fundamentally transform our future.
In short, bio is eating the world.
Journal Club: Engineering Living Materials
To date, synthetic biology has been mainly focused on reproducing existing compounds and materials with biomanufacturing. Think of engineering yeast to produce anti-malarial drugs, or bacteria producing spider silk. But as our guest — Professor Tom Ellis of Imperial College London — argues, the future of synthetic biology is in creating materials with fundamentally new and distinct functions. Imagine, a spider silk rope that it is interwoven with cells that can catalyze the dissolution of that rope in certain circumstances. Host Lauren Richardson and a16z bio deal team partner Judy Savitskaya talk to Dr. Ellis about his group's work creating a prototype of an engineered living material (ELM) that can be iterated on and programmed with a huge array of different functions, how ELMs can disrupt established markets, and their varied uses in industry, healthcare, fashion, consumer products, and even potentially in space travel.
Value Versus Volume (in Healthcare)
The way we pay for healthcare in the US has long been by fee-for-service: per doctor visit, per test, per surgery, per hospital stay. But that system has led to rapidly escalating volumes of services and cost to the system—without actually improving outcomes. What if we shifted everything towards paying for value—and outcomes—instead?
In this episode, Todd Park, co-founder and executive chairman of Devoted Health, and formerly Chief Technology Officer and technology advisor for President Barack Obama; a16z General Partner Vijay Pande; and Bio Eats World host Hanne Winarsky—talk all about the megatrend of value-based care, and how it is redefining healthcare itself. Why is now the moment for this massive shift? How do we implement it? What does it mean for doctors and patients, insurers and policymakers? What is tech’s role in making it possible, and what's the business model and incentive for creating value?
Things That Make You Go Hmmmm in Healthcare
In this episode, we share an episode of the brand new a16z Live podcast feed called “It’s Time to Heal”—a live conversation on audio/drop in chat app Clubhouse every Monday at 5pm PT, covering the latest trends and future of bio and healthcare with special guests and entrepreneurs, hosted by a16z bio partners Vineeta Agarwala, Jorge Conde, Vijay Pande, and Julie Yoo.
Last week, a16z Bio General Partners and a16z cofounder Marc Andreessen talked with guest Nihkil Krishnan, comedian and author known for his Out-of-Pocket Substack newsletter and Slack community for healthcare builders, award winning children’s book, If You Give a Mouse Metformin, and past endeavors at TrialSpark and as healthcare analyst CB Insights. The conversation is all about the things that make you go “hmmm” in healthcare—the stuff we're all thinking but don't talk about, the places where exciting and surprising things are happening, and the places where you have to wonder why it works that way.
Journal Club: My Tick Teacher
Ticks are "master scientists of our skin," says our guest — Seemay Chou, Assistant Professor at University of California, San Francisco. On this episode of the Bio Eats World Journal Club, Dr. Chou and host Lauren Richardson discuss how, over millions of years of evolution, ticks have developed a suite of tools to manipulate our skin physiology, all of which are delivered through their saliva as they feed. Pathogens, like the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease, take advantage of the tick's tools to infect new hosts. But what if we could also learn to use these tools? In this conversation, we discuss the dynamic nature of host-pathogen interactions, how ticks stole a tool from bacteria and then modified it to suit their needs, how our microbiome helps to protect us from ticks, how bias can influence how you set up experiments and interpret data, and how an un-fundable research project inspired a startup.
May I Have Your Insurance Card Again, Please?
There's been a lot of talk (including on this show!) about the many kinds of innovations and technologies changing healthcare delivery for clinicians and patients. But what's happening behind the scenes in healthcare: in billing, in administration, and infrastructure? In this episode, we’re talking about the mountains of work (and paperwork) in the healthcare system, from reimbursement claims to patient registration to call centers scheduling appointments and much more—the enormous cost of inefficiency and waste in these areas adds to the healthcare system, and what kind of tech can help to improve it.
Former Senator Bill Frist—a surgeon, Senate Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007, co-founder of Aspire Health, host of healthcare podcast A Second Opinion, and board member for many healthcare systems and companies; Malinka Walaliyadde, CEO and co-founder of Alpha Health, a tech company that automates healthcare revenue cycle management; and a16z General Partner Julie Yoo join Bio Eats World host Hanne Winarsky to discuss how innovation happens in healthcare's administrative "back office". The conversation covers what that waste currently costs us on a national and personal level; how (and what) new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can automate to help cut cost out of the system; and how ultimately, we can allow innovate in these areas to allow the humans to do the really important work.
Journal Club: Suppressing Superbugs
"Superbug" is shorthand for multi-drug resistant bacteria. Infections with superbugs are the most difficult to treat, because these bacteria have evolved ways of evading multiple — and sometimes all! — of our available antibiotics. This multi-drug resistance can arise in the bacteria that are causing disease, meaning doctors have to find new ways to treat the infection, but also in the bacteria that harmlessly live in our gastrointestinal tract. Critically, if these gut bacteria become superbugs, they can spread resistance throughout a hospital setting via fecal-oral contamination. On this episode of the Bio Eats World Journal Club, we discuss a new strategy for protecting those harmless bacteria from antibiotics while still treating the infection. Host Lauren Richardson (@lr_bio) is joined by Professor Andrew Read of Penn State University to discuss his team's work preventing resistance evolution by repurposing an old, FDA-approved drug. The conversation covers the scope of the antibiotic resistance problem, the insights that lead to the discovery of this adjuvant therapy, and the fundamentally novel nature of anti-evolution drugs.