of all, it’s Life ScienceS! There are many, these are just a few, and they look at different problems as well as different parts of the same problem. It’s like having a microscope that you can set to many different zoom levels.
Life Sciences is going to be a HUGE deal in the future, was when I met Juan Enriquez at the Harvard Club of Manhattan. Juan is the founding director of the Life Sciences Project at the Harvard Business School. He also teaches, invests in biotech and writes books about life sciences.
excellent book that explains in the simplest terms what Life Sciences are, and how they will change everything we know. There’s a more recent book that takes these ideas further, but “As The Future Catches You” is the best one in my opinion. There’s also amazing Ted Talks that Juan has given, where he uses humor and other analogies to break down his ideas in simple terms.
C, T, G information stored on drives (Kb, Mb..) information stored on living cells (Kbp, Mbp...) execution can lead to insights execution can lead to anything! But the most important take-away message here is that these two worlds, of PCs and DNA, don’t compete with each other. They are similar, yet different. But if anything, they complement each other.
developing 10 to 15-year business plans that will probably never happen, working under an awful organizational culture with no transparency, questionable ethics, no accountability and no clear oversight on goals.
“Jerry Maguire” moment, which is covered in more optimism (a renewed, more sophisticated kind?) but this time with a great element of awareness of external barriers to success. ! This one creates risk but gives great empowerment to redeﬁne things, and to make sure this time around, you will succeed and stay away from toxic individuals. It can get lonely unless you try to go and build a network of people who share the same vision and ideas.
Taskﬂight, is a software as a service for teams that need efficient collaboration. ! I took all of what frustrated me in that awful job and made a software that can help people deal with a toxic company culture. ! So for instance, everyone in your team can see what and how much you bring to the table, and you can assign tasks and upload ﬁles to advance work from wherever you may be.
a calculation in percentages, which indicates how closer you are to achieving your objective. ! That was something we did to get started, something that can now help me with the work of my next teams and projects. Now back to Life Sciences…
around VCs, pundits and entrepreneurs, saying that you should work on stuff that matters. And so we have lots of companies coming up with supposedly “ground-breaking” things. But to work on stuff that TRULY matters, we have to ask ourselves the question: “Will it still matter 30 years from now? 50 years from now?”.
great, I love what it is doing for people, and the fact that we have these at Parsons. But 3D printing is still in its infancy, and it’s still a very limited space for people to make things. Engagement is limited to tweaking designs and executing a “make” function.
ACTG ACTG ACTG The model with Life Sciences is one where you take things that exist, you understand them, then modify them.. and since they are living things, they can create stuff for us. ! We can make anything with them! The medium (or the printer if you will) is DNA code (or molecular structures), so the limit is set by the capacities of life itself. ! *note: this “doodle” is an oversimpliﬁcation of a plethora of sciences and their process. It would never stand a review from the scientiﬁc community, but it’s just a visual approximation for a non-scientiﬁc crowd to grasp the nature of working with DNA.
how do we tell our bodies to execute those functions again? Remember, this code is already in us. It’s like having software that you can only run once. I.e: once “Baby teeth” is executed.. or “adult teeth” is executed, that’s it. Same for limbs, organs, etc.
converting tacit knowledge into explicit is what enabled us humans to develop the wheel or light a ﬁre. You achieve something, you replicate it, you understand how it was achieved and you give instructions so that other people can do it. You make it explicit! But ﬁrst you need to know what’s going on in your observation. That’s the tricky part.
machines, but a simple one is PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), which is a process where we can basically take a very small look at a piece of life code. It’s like a DNA photocopier, in that it takes a sample of a living thing, and it copies its DNA in sequence to determine how that code (those letters) are combined. So we could, for instance, “photocopy life” and run it against a database of species to determine what kind of living thing we have a sample of.
been to go out and sample sushi to see if the description of the ﬁsh actually matched what was being sold. Turns out, most of the time, when restaurants claimed to sell White Tuna, they were actually delivering a much cheaper substitute, like the Mozambique Tilapia. ! In this case, it’s called Barcoding because you take a very small piece of the genome (the whole DNA with all of its genes), to identify the species. It’s like having a set of numbers like we do with barcodes to identify items in a store.
other life forms as a consequence) has been dropping so fast, actually faster than Moore’s Law! ! Remember Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors was meant to double every year? That has been used in the PC age to reﬂect the doubling of capacity and the doubling of price drops every year. ! If the cost of a genome had followed Moore’s Law, it would cost over a million dollars today, but its cost is at almost $10,000.
Well, it turns out that one of the biggest productivity issues that scientists are facing is actually in making sense of all that data that companies spend so much money to obtain. It is in that white arrow where the problem lies.
make, re-make ACTG ACTG ACTG Visualize! The methods by which to visualize the data gathered are so hard to use, so technical, that they require someone who is well versed in very opposed worlds: the bioinformatic world (mostly programming) and the speciﬁc life sciences need (molecular biology, genomics, microbiology, whatever we are working with). ! Usually a bioinformatic does not have the scientiﬁc knowledge to help accelerate discoveries, and a scientist does not have the programming knowledge to improve the extracting of the insight they need from their data sets! It’s a problem most companies get stuck with, and real life solutions suffer as a consequence.
of my full genome) as provided by 23andme.com ! This is an old-fashioned table list. 23andme is a consumer service and they actually do a great job and visualizing things for people to understand. But most companies that are doing serious genomic research obtain a simple data list in columns and rows like these. They have to ﬁnd highly educated people to turn this into something useful. Big data? not as common in labs as you might think!
for Biotechnology Information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) has made available online for free. ! A lot of companies build tools around this to boost its capabilities, but it only feeds the gap between raw data and insight. ! Try showing this to a shareholder if you work for a biotech company. Try showing it to your lab trainees, or your bioinformatics that need to understand what you’re looking for with your next analysis tool you want to build. What about your customers?
genomes is this. The framework is called “Circos” (http://circos.ca) and it requires a software engineer, systems analyst or bioinformatic person to install a distribution package and run scripts to make this happen. ! This is so-called “Bleeding edge” but very outdated already. If we are to become a life code literate society, we need to do better than this.
genes to their database that has geographical information on where my gene variations (my SNPs, pronounced “Snips”) have been in the past thousands of years. ! This is something we can all make meaning of, mostly because it uses something we all know about, which is geography. So we need to ﬁnd something like this for complex things like DNA markers.
$600 and build a “DNA photocopier” We can get started TODAY. There’s a plethora of data waiting to be tinkered with. Or if we want to get people involved and engaged in something really cool, we can build our own PCR machine, with just $600, and go out and start sequencing things!
make tools for scientists to use. ! -have companies test them. So we could build repositories that people can access, like the NCBI does. Then we could visualize them in many different ways, see what sticks and what doesn’t. And we could have a network of companies testing them to validate the scientiﬁc usefulness.
the potential to become a standard in the scientiﬁc community. To have Parsons gain inﬂuence in a ﬁeld where design has taken a very small role, and to enable discoveries that can change lives globally.