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: Reversing Parkinson's with New Neurons
With Xiang-Dong Fu and @lr_bio
Parkinson's Disease is caused by the death of specific neurons in the brain. In this episode of the Bio Eats World Journal Club, we discuss research reprogramming non-neuronal brain cells (astrocytes) to become neurons to replace those lost to disease. This work paves the way for a potential cure for this devastating disease.
The Biology of Pain
Why do we experience physical pain? Is all pain the same, or are there different types? Do people experience pain differently? Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School Clifford Woolf, and Bio Eats World host Hanne Winarsky talk about everything we know about the biology of pain.
Technology is today enabling a new, deeper, and much more complex understanding of the phenomenon of pain. Which pathways and neurons are activated in the brain and when, and what patterns might represent different kinds of pain? In this episode (first aired on the a16z Podcast in September 2019), Woolf describes the four different phenotypes of pain, the purpose of each, and what changes when we begin to understand them as distinct types. What does it mean for how we can treat pain in the future… and where we can intervene?
Journal Club: Super-Scaling COVID-19 Testing with DNA Sequencing
with @srikosuri, @ArboledaVal and @lr_bio
To safely reopen society during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need tests that are fast, can be given frequently, are inexpensive, and are easy to administer. On the Bio Eats World Journal Club we discuss the open source COVID-19 diagnostic platform SwabSeq, which was recently granted an EUA from the FDA. SwabSeq uses DNA sequencing to vastly increase the scale of testing so that it can be done broadly across a population.
Biology by Design
We’re at the dawn of a new era where we’re truly able to design biology: from genetically engineered cotton, to meat made from plants, to incredibly complex new therapies composed of engineered cells and genes. And that's just the very beginning. One day, just about everything will be genetically engineered, from our medicines to our materials and manufacturing and much more. The question is no longer, can we design biology? Instead the question now is, what can we build with these tools?
So how does that really happen? How can we build precise functions and circuits inside cells? How might we we engineer a cell to sense and perceive its environment, and respond to it? What new generation of companies will be built around these new capabilities? In this episode, Alec Nielsen, co-founder and CEO of Asimov, a company that builds tools to program living cells; Vijay Pande, General Partner at a16z; and Bio Eats World host Hanne Winarsky talk about where we are on the way to this future, what scientific and industry breakthroughs got us here, and the new tools we need—libraries of genetic parts, new platforms, computer simulations and more—to truly design living systems.
Journal Club: Turning a Toxin into a Genome Editing Tool
with @JorgeCondeBio, @andy23tran, and @lr_bio
In this episode of Journal Club we discuss the development of the first genome editing enzyme capable of performing precision edits to the mitochondrial genome. Mutations in the mitochondrial genome cause over 150 different human diseases, but none of our existing gene editing tools have been able to edit this DNA. This newly developed tool can be used to create better models of these diseases and and perhaps one day be used to treat them with gene therapy.
Going Back to the Workplace in a Pandemic
It's not normal to talk to your employer about the details of your health: your current temperature, who you've been exposed to, whether your kid is sick, whether or not you've been social distancing. So how do employers handle and manage this entirely new process of employees returning to the workplace in the midst of an ongoing pandemic?
In this episode of Bio Eats World, Vineeta Agarwala (general partner at a16z), Phong Nguyen (EVP and General Manager at Accolade), Ryan Sandler (CEO and Cofounder of Truework), and Mark Sendak (Population Health & Data Science Lead at the Duke Institute for Health Innovation) talk about what it means for employers to now have to manage employee health in a whole new way, figuring out when it's safe to come back, how, and what tools you need. From monitoring employee health and preventing transmission to triaging what happens when there is a documented case; temperature checks (do they even make sense?); testing (how often and in what way?); and above all, where can technology help, this is an entirely new world for employers and employees both. All these decision trees involve not just a complex business logic and new tools and procedures, but also big issues around employee privacy and trust, and a fundamental shift in the relationship between employer and employee... as this becomes a new feature of our COVID world.