SBPWG:Meetings/Dec 13 2011
Meeting Notes: December 13th 2011
December 13th 5:00-8:00pm @ JBEI
- SynBERC Siebel Scholars Syn Bio Summit - "Syn Bio's Role in Building the Bioeconomy"
- Register here
See slides here
- The video can be found here
By Josh Kittleson
encompassed a variety of experiences and perspectives:
- David Breslauer (Co-Founder and CSO; Refactored Materials)
- Douglas Crawford (Partner; Mission Bay Capital and Associate Director, QB3)
- Nathan Hillson (Director of Synthetic Biology, Fuels Synthesis Division; Joint BioEnergy Institute)
- Holly Million (Executive Director; BioBricks Foundation)
- Zach Serber (Scientist, Amyris)
- Bill Shelander (Business and Entrepreneurial Development; Lawrence Berkeley National Labs)
covered several topics relevant to the future of synthetic biology, with a focus on the roles and challenges of emerging companies and technologies.
- Panelists were excited that several large government agencies have either already granted or plan to grant fund to both academic and commercial synthetic biology research. While alternative mechanisms for raising capital were welcomed, the idea of "smart money" (funding that comes with expertise and access to people and resources) was particularly attractive to smaller companies.
- The importance of having access to shared facilities was highlighted, with an emphasis on the need to develop shared process (fermentation) facilities.
- The potential for synthetic biology to free scientists from routine at-the-bench operations was discussed. The implications for training of future scientists were considered, with the consensus being that the ability to transform data into knowledge is and will be critical.
- Panelists agreed that developing useful products in a sustainable way would be and excellent mechanism for convincing the public of the utility and "goodness" of synthetic biology, while noting that care still needed to be taken to adequately educate policy makers and their constituencies about the capabilities and potential dangers of ongoing research.
- Many possible paths from idea to successful company were described. Common themes included vetting ideas early to get valuable feedback, taking advantage of incubator spaces, and ensuring that ideas had a chance to be developed enough to attract additional capital.
- The potential to develop synergies between government, industry, and academia were discussed. One important opportunity is for companies to communicate their challenges to academic researchers to help guide the selection of research problems.
- The role of IP was discussed, with the consensus being that biological parts and the processes used to manipulate DNA and organisms ought to generally be open, while the pathways and products used to generate revenue should remain protected.
- It was repeatedly stressed that the key to the success of the synthetic biology industry is a vibrant ecosystem of research (both academic and industrial). The expectation is that the financial success of any one company will make it easier to obtain funding for future ventures, and generate the enthusiasm and will needed to help more and more companies succeed.
After the panel discussion, there was plenty of opportunity to network with both the panelists and other guests over dinner and drinks. Several groups had the opportunity to tour either JBEI or Amyris to see firsthand what cutting edge synthetic biology research looks like.
Thanks to Megan Palmer ('10) and Jeff Dietrich ('10) for putting together and chairing the panel, and of course Jenny, Kim, and Karen for superb execution! Also thanks to SynBERC and JBEI for co-hosting the event.
Josh Kittleson, Class of 2012