Seemay Chou talks about the process of building a new research organization, ticks, hiring and managing entrepreneurial scientists, non-model organisms, institutional experiments and a lot more!
Seemay is the co-founder and CEO of Arcadia Science — a research and development company focusing on underesearched areas in biology and specifically new organisms that haven't been traditionally studied in the lab. She’s also the co-founder of Trove Biolabs — a startup focused on harnessing molecules in tick saliva for skin therapies and was previously an assistant professor at UCSF.
She has thought deeply not just about scientific problems themselves, but the meta questions of how we can build better processes and institutions for discovery and invention. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Seemay Chou
Seemay on Twitter (@seemaychou)
Seemay's essay about building Arcadia
[00:02:02] Ben: So since a lot of our conversation is going to be about it how do you describe Arcadia to a smart well-read person who has never actually heard of it before?
[00:02:12] Seemay: Okay. I, I actually don't have a singular answer to this smart and educated in what realm.
[00:02:19] Ben: oh, good question. Let's assume they have taken some undergraduate science classes, but perhaps are not deeply enmeshed in, in academia. So, so like,
[00:02:31] Seemay: enmeshed in the meta science community.[00:02:35]
[00:02:35] Ben: No, no, no, no, but they've, they, they, they, they they're aware that it's a thing, but
[00:02:40] Seemay: Yeah. Okay. So for that person, I would say we're a research and development company that is interested in thinking about how we explore under researched areas in biology, new organisms that haven't been traditionally studied in the lab.
And we're thinking from first principal polls about all the different ways we can structure the organization around this to also yield outcomes around innovation and commercialization.
[00:03:07] Ben: Nice. And how would you describe it to someone who is enmeshed in the, the meta science community?
[00:03:13] Seemay: In the meta science community, I would, I would say Arcadias are meta science experiment on how we enable more science in the realm of discovery, exploration and innovation. And it's, you know, that that's where I would start. And then there's so much more that we could click into on that.
[00:03:31] Ben: And we will, we will absolutely do that. But before we get there I'm actually really [00:03:35] interested in, in Arcadia's backstory. Cuz cuz when we met, I feel like you were already , well down the, the path of spinning it up. So what's, there's, there's always a good story there. What made you wanna go do this crazy thing?
[00:03:47] Seemay: So, so the backstory of Arcadia is actually trove. Soro was my first startup that I spun out together with my co-founder of Kira post. started from a point of frustration around a set of scientific questions that I found challenging to answer in my own lab in academia. So we were very interested in my lab in thinking about all the different molecules and tick saliva that manipulate the skin barrier when a tick is feeding, but basically the, the ideal form of a team around this was, you know, like a very collaborative, highly skilled team that was, you know, strike team for like biochemical, fractionation, math spec, developing itch assays to get this done.
It was [00:04:35] not a PhD style project of like one person sort of open-endedly exploring a question. So I was struggling to figure out how to get funding for this, but that wasn't even the right question because even with the right money, like it's still very challenging to set up the right team for this in academia.
And so it was during this frustration that I started exploring with Kira about like, what is even the right way to solve this problem, because it's not gonna be through writing