Humble Bee Bio connects with the rocking world of synthetic biology.
We attended the Global Synthetic Biology Conference hosted by Built with Biology in San Francisco. The conference brought together an enthusiastic crew of innovators, investors, engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, thought leaders, policymakers, and academics providing opportunities for us to create strong connections with the wider syn-biosphere. Ryan Graves, our CTO, was there representing Humble Bee Bio excited by new tools and rubbing shoulders with a group of keen collaborators and ambitious innovators.
Here are some of the highlights:
A super collegial industry
The world of synthetic biology is currently booming, and eager to solve the earth’s biggest problems. This is met with a shift in mindset on how we do business, creating an atmosphere of community, unlike many other similar conferences.
Ryan: “One of the big takeaways from the conference is how collegial the industry is, how friendly everyone is and how everyone is open to networking. You’re constantly being introduced to networks and people are keen to solve the problems that you might have… Collaboration is so important, especially at the early stage.”
After all, we’re all in this together.
Exciting new tools to play with
In a conference filled with curious, driven scientists & entrepreneurs, it is very expected that there was a lot of excitement over all the new technologies; the ones ready to go and the ones just around the corner paving the way for the biomanufacturing revolution.
Ryan: “There was huge excitement about what people were able to do with the tools that they’ve got. A lot of the cutting-edge tools they’ve just developed are at a point that could speed up our R&D considerably. An example of this is a genome-wide editor using CRISPR tools meaning it can be done in the space of 6 months, which is just phenomenal. You could never do that on the bench by hand. Combining this with some rational design will be so powerful. Likewise with all the new cell free expression technologies. This just brings so many exciting things in terms of how we can tune our different products towards what industry & consumers need and you can do it in quite a timely manner as well. It’s no longer a five-year turnaround to optimise a new concept protein product — you can give it a good crack in six months to a year which is awesome.”
New tools in synthetic biology mean that organisations like ours can develop more rapidly. We can hopefully out-compete current materials with higher performance and, most importantly, sustainability.
Ryan “Most of the focus has been using precision fermentation and now people are attempting biomanufacturing in plants, in microalgae, cyanobacteria using waste products & sunshine as their feedstocks. It may drastically reduce the cost of goods of biomanufactured products. New technologies that were deemed too difficult are now breaking through and becoming more accessible.”
What an exciting time.
Interacting with our syn-bio friends
After all the virtual meetings for the past few years, it was a treat to finally see our collaborators face to face. We connected with our partners, Gingko Bioworks, and are thrilled to be working with them through their CDK (Cell Development Kit) program.
Ryan: “The CDK enables small (or big) companies with incredible ideas to use their (Gingko’s) platform to do the very hard, high throughput science that small companies don’t have the infrastructure or specialised expertise to do themselves. So that’s why we work with them and it’s brilliant to meet them all see their passion for engineering biology.”
We also got to meet other biotech companies at different stages of development. Most notably for Ryan, Checkerspot, a company producing biomaterials made from algae now being used in high-performance skis, was a true highlight.
Ryan: “It’s just an incredible story. They’ve actually produced a selling product, with high performance and improved sustainability. Now, other ski manufacturers are wanting to adopt their novel biomaterials into their skis, and promote the fact they’re using Checkerspot’s materials to support their shift to more sustainable materials. This is huge validation that biomanufacturing is real and it’s gonna take off. You can make better skis from a more environmentally beneficial process and you can keep it at the same price points, it ticks all the boxes. Charles Dimmler’s presentation was truly inspiring too.”
Many attendees cited former Google co-founder & CEO and now philanthropist, Eric Schmidt’s, keynote speech as one of the biggest sources of inspiration for the conference.
Ryan: “One of the things that I got out of Eric’s keynote was about the bioeconomy and how it will transform the future, how it needs to transform the future. It is so incredibly important for tackling climate change and plastic pollution. It’s also a vehicle for the $4 -$30 trillion industry. In terms of the climate change threat, it’s the only thing I’ve come across with a mechanism where we can substantially move the dial on climate change. Not by 1 or 2 percentage points, but we can really shift it. We can switch much of our manufacturing to biomanufacturing. It’s possible to sequester loads of carbon to form the backbone of all the products we humans desire. It’s underpinned by economics that are attractive, the fact that you can make money out of this means that it fits into our capital structures and how the world functions”
Eric also spoke of getting more skilled people on board.
Ryan: “We need loads of highly trained talent to drive the bioeconomy, that was a big thing that came through. We need young people to get excited about synthetic biology & bioengineering, and train them to help drive this bioeconomy.”
A big thank you to all that made this conference a reality. We look forward to the next built with biology conference!