Synbio changes everything – plus, BIO IMPACT Digital preview

September 21, 2020
BIO IMPACT Digital starts today, kicking off two days of virtual educational sessions and networking for the agriculture and environment biotechnology industry. Good Day BIO will bring you the top headlines from the event, plus more industry news. Today, we preview…

BIO IMPACT Digital starts today, kicking off two days of virtual educational sessions and networking for the agriculture and environment biotechnology industry. Good Day BIO will bring you the top headlines from the event, plus more industry news.

Today, we preview the event with a fascinating podcast on synbio and the winner of the Buzz of BIO contest. Scroll to the end for your usual Washington news. Here are around 675 words, 3 and a half minutes.

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How to follow BIO IMPACT Digital

What we’re watching today: This morning, leaders across the bioeconomy will join BIO's Stephanie Batchelor to discuss how we secure a resilient future (9 AM ET/6 AM PT). You also won't want to miss the all-women plenary, Delivering Justice through Science (3 PM ET/12 PM PT), featuring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), AquaBounty Technologies’ CEO Sylvia Wulf, Cargill VP Jill Zullo, and BIO’s CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath. We’ll also get the latest on One Health policy with sponsor Novozymes (12 PM ET/9 AM PT). In the afternoon, biofuels industry leaders will join an expert from U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s (R-IN) office to dig into the cross-sectoral benefits of agricultural improvements (1 PM ET/10 AM PT).


Synbio changes everything

Imagine if you could 3D print life. This is the fascinating world of synthetic biology, or synbio. Ahead of BIO IMPACT Digital, BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath discussed the possibilities with the co-founder of what’s called “the first synbio unicorn” on the I AM BIO Podcast.

“3D printing actual DNA has become science non-fiction,” said Dr. Michelle, helping scientists solve “some of the most vexing problems on the planet, whether it’s stopping a pandemic in its tracks or saving the Earth from the excesses of man.”

For example, synbio is being used to make COVID-19 vaccines—without needing to use the live virus. “It’s much faster than the traditional way to make vaccines,” said Dr. Jason Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder of Gingko Bioworks, which is working with Moderna on their RNA vaccine. 

It’s also being used to discover new antibiotics, by looking in the genomes of bacteria to see how they fight one another. You can “computationally look at the code and say, hey, that might be an antibiotic, and then you go print it and try it out and see if it is,” he explained. (Gingko has partnered with Roche to find new classes of antibiotics this way.)

And on the ag front, Gingko’s working with Bayer to develop corn, wheat, and rice that produce their own nitrogen fertilizer. 

Here's a scoop on what's next for Gingko: They’re doing work on bioremediation—“using biology to break things down,” because biology is “the world’s best recycler.” 

Why it matters: Before COVID-19, “normal” meant not being prepared for pandemics, not being prepared for climate change, and allowing society to continue being inequitable. “After all this turmoil,” Jason concluded, we have the chance to ask, “what do we want the future to look like?” And synthetic biology can help us get there. 

Listen to the whole thing to learn how the field has evolved since we mapped the genome, what it actually means to “print” DNA, and why Jason is inspired by “Jurassic Park.” 

Listen at or your favorite podcast platform, including AppleGoogle, or Spotify.


More News: 

The Wall Street Journal: Why vaccines are essential to herd immunity
“Scientists say 60% to 70% of the population would have to gain immunity to COVID-19 through infection or vaccination to reach widespread protection.” 

World Economic Forum: What are the challenges in making the planet more sustainable?
“Significant work remains to save the planet, especially on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, investing in renewable energy, and reversing biodiversity loss.” 

Congrats to Buzz of BIO Winner: Purecane!

The Buzz of BIO contest recognizes companies developing the next biotech innovations—and helps them make connections needed to take their products to the next phase.   

The winner of Buzz of BIO IMPACT Digital: Purecane™, an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener developed using a unique, proprietary process which derives its main ingredient, Sugarcane Reb M, directly from sugarcane itself—so it tastes like sugar! 

Purecane products are zero glycemic (packets and spoonable family canister), low glycemic (baking sweetener), vegan, keto-friendly, gluten-free, halal, and kosher.

Learn more about the Buzz of BIO.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: Heading to Ohio for campaign events.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Expect the debate over when to vote on a nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat to dominate the news this week—possibly until the election. POLITICO has the latest on what’s happening in the Senate, while The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the impact of RBG’s death on health care. Meanwhile, the House is working to avoid a shutdown on Sept. 30.

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