SynBioBeta 2017 | Glimmers of Hope

SynBioBeta is an annual conference — now in its sixth year — that brings together experts and innovators in synthetic biology, ranging from academia to entrepreneurs to industry. In addition to being a great place to cross paths with dear friends from previous chapters of my career and hear from luminaries like George Church, what is always most striking to me is the intellectual horsepower in this industry that is being applied to humanity’s biggest challenges — from sustainably feeding, clothing and accommodating a growing global population to improving human health.

Companies are working to:

  • Create sustainable ink from algae, eliminating dependence on the petroleum industry to make the ink products (from printer cartridges to professional printing) — Living Ink;
  • Generate sustainable versions of meats, fish, eggs and other traditional human foods, which will help feed a growing global population while reducing factory farming and not incenting local communities to over-fish their waters — Perfect Day Foods, Memphis Meats, Finless Foods, Geltor, Miraculex, among others;
  • Devise sustainable textile dyes that use only 10% of the water used in traditional methods, and that don’t contaminate water sources, either — Colorifix;
  • Cost-effectively reclaim polluted wastewater from mines, converting it into irrigation-grade — Uba Biologix; and
  • Transform methane into usable chemicals — iMicrobes

These are just a few shoutouts — there are so many more. In all cases, the companies engaged in these and other pursuits are applying innovation thinking to biology to help solve some of humanity’s near- and long-term challenges. So, I can easily say that it was one of the most uplifting and and inspiring gatherings.

What’s also commendable is the ecosystem that has come together around the synthetic biology industry, from the visionary investors who have the interest and understanding to invest in these science-based businesses and commitment to doing more than just making money with another app.

From the Elemental Machines perspective, one of things that distinguishes this community is their approach to data and a ‘data-first’ mindset in their work. They are deeply committed to having access to all available data and to using AI and machine learning techniques to accelerate their work, and we are delighted to work with many companies in this dynamic and fascinating sector. Congrats to John Cumbers and the SynBioBeta team for a great event! Until next year!