I was able to attend SynBioBeta SF 2017 this past month
Things I learned:
Make a hashtag that is not confusing. SBBSF17? Or is it SBB17SF? Is it capitalized?
Take better notes…
“Discussion” doesn’t mean what you think it means when presented with the words “Killer App.” Luckily we made it through all the
Biochemistry, systems bio, and protein engineering are pretty much the only things synthetic biology is currently good for. Companies are either expressing proteins as a product or as part of a metabolic pathway and then optimizing for the output.
Still there’s a bunch of cool companies and here are some in no particular order: Colorifix, Recombinetics, AnimalBiome, MiraculeX, Distributedbio, Living Ink, Spiderwort (Pelling Lab OMG), TAXA, Modern Meadow, Labcyte (Echo video), Perfect Day, Clara Foods, intoDNA.
Things I saw:
(theres a lot missing here cause my notes are bad and I’m keeping this short)
Josiah Zayner GMO’d himself. This is a generous use of the word “Attempt.” There was a legit film crew there and I might be in a movie!!! 😊. Zayner spent a lot of time bad mouthing the FDA (with some not quite right facts) which I think might be motivated by a previous encounter. Not sure why he was drinking during his talk, maybe a distain for us suits? Camera People, if you read this, I am sorry for taking my whiskey shot before you, I feel bad about that, sorry.
Sebastian Cocioba held a great workshop on engineering plants and the work he was doing. Plant tissue culture is tough but this guy’s getting it done in his Mom’s spare room. Coolest part was the true blue rose he’s working on for some Japanese company (Suntory) to spite the Australian company Florigene which produced “blue” roses (TAXA is weirdly enough working on the same idea). Cool guy, great ideas, loved the brining fairy tales to life aspect of his work (Apples with extra melatonin to put you to sleep!?!?).
Unconference was great, wine was amazing and Viansa (Sonoma Winery and Tasting room) had an awesome view (hope it didn’t burn down).
Talked with some cool people about life extension. While the ideas was groups would self-organize by interest, the guy “heading up” this group was clearly interested in fronting his really specific idea of life extension and pushing the group into agreeing with him (by asking people to disprove it). It boils down to cloning yourself and preforming a head transplant. There are a bunch of problems but I still think surgery is more difficult than he was trying to suggest but I’ll seed that it’s currently the most easily attainable life extension method.
Next session I hopped into was the next 20 years of synthetic biology. Awesome group, great ideas. There were two axis of disagreement (weirdly I’ve never seen more than that probably because it’s hard to draw), there were optimists and pessimists about public attitude and then people who thought the growth would be company to company or as a function of interaction with the “public.” The main consensus was that Monsanto made this way more difficult. I fronted the view of positive public interaction. I liked the company to company thought but that missed a lot of thought-space. In general, everyone was positive about the future assuming current work with the public and the lack of a major disaster.
Things I’m taking away:
I felt like there was a clear divide between people that were interesting to talk with and people who immediately seemed like they wanted to stop talking to me; It came down to status. The most interesting people to talk with where people who were part of start-ups, the least interesting people were anyone who spoke. This might just be my reading my social awkwardness into other people so take what I say with a pinch of salt but next time I’m bringing a friend.