Is DNA the Future? The Best Biotech Talks of the Year

best biotech talks 2017 1

We’ve compiled our favorite talks of the year by some of the best leaders in the field about how biotech will change our lives in coming years. 

Biotech is rapidly advancing thanks to the huge improvements the technology to both read and write DNA has experienced in the past years. While devices become smaller and speed gets way faster, the volume of data that can be obtained and analyze is growing at an incredible speed. To keep up to date with the latest advances, we’ve selected five talks by industry leaders that explain how these technologies could very soon change the world.

Sequencing DNA with your mobile phone

Clive Brown is the CTO of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, a company that’s developing pocket-size devices that can sequence DNA samples much faster than current, bulky technologies used at labs. The sequencers even work in space, at zero gravity. In his talk at Hello Tomorrow, Brown explains the scientific basis of the technology and the implications it could have on diagnosis. He also shows on stage the first prototype of the SmidgION, a sequencer that plugs into mobile phones that he expects will be available this year.

Synthetic biology

bioteh talks Drew Endy synbio

Drew Endy is considered one of the fathers of the field of synthetic biology. In his keynote at SynBioBeta in London this year, he gave an overview of how the field has evolved since its beginnings in the early 2000s, and how to tackle current challenges, especially public acceptance of synbio applications. In particular, Endy mentioned the efforts made by Oxitec to win approval for the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida. Speaking of which, here is a chat I had with Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec, if you want to learn more about his company’s technology.

Personalized medicine

Jurgi Camblong is the CEO and co-founder of Sophia Genetics, a Swiss biotech company seeking to democratize data-driven medicine. In his talk at Wired Health this year, he gave an overview of the challenges of treating cancer and how his company plans to use artificial intelligence to diagnose patients faster and more accurately to give them the treatment that works best for each person.

From space engineers to CRISPR

Paul Dabrowski, CEO of Synthego, tells the story of how he and his brother left Elon Musk’s SpaceX to create a synbio company around the revolutionary genetic engineering technology of CRISPR. His company has been backed by Jennifer Doudna, one of the developers of the technology. For those that want to dig deeper, she published a book this year that goes into the details of both the technology and the ethical issues it raises.

What’s next in biotech?

David Berry is the General Partner at Flagship Pioneering, the Boston VC behind Moderna, one of the hottest biotech companies at the moment. In his keynote at Labiotech Refresh, he compared the first biotech revolution after the development of recombinant DNA technology to the current state of the field. With DNA sequencing and synthesis costs lower than ever, Berry thinks our ability to control genes precisely will open a myriad of opportunities in biotech – we’re already starting to see it in fields like mRNA, CRISPR and the microbiome.

Hope you enjoy the talks! If there’s any we’ve missed, please add it in the comments below.

Image via Bluebay / Shutterstock

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