This week I attended SynBioBeta 2014. This is a biotech/synthetic biology industry conference. I saw presentations from many new biotech startups. This is a rapidly growing space. Many companies were focusing on the foundations needed for a biotech revolution: DNA sequencing, DNA writing (Cambrian Genomics), easy genetic manipulations in organisms (Ginkgo Bioworks). One of my favorite parts was a tour of Cambrian Genomics led by founder Austen Heinz. Austen and his company were inspiring because they were pushing the edge on a shoestring budget. He talked about modifying all kinds of organisms often in playful, but useful ways. He had an almost “we can do this fun thing so why not” attitude. This reminded me of the attitudes of the founders of early computer companies, and it was exciting to see the same attitude in biology.
I also met with researchers at the Gladstone Institute who are frequent collaborators of our group.
This was my first time in San Francisco. The city had a very cool atmosphere and it seemed like everyone was focused on building their own company and releasing the next product.