Synthetic biology and gene editing are two emerging fields that can potentially transform various industries, from agriculture to medicine. However, as with any new technology, there are questions surrounding consumer acceptance and the potential implications of widespread use.
In a recent webinar on synthetic biology, industry experts discussed consumer acceptance of gene editing and the potential implications for the industry. One of the key takeaways from the discussion was that while there is interest and excitement around the technology, there is still a lot of uncertainty and hesitation.
One of the industry’s main challenges is the perception of gene editing as a “black box” technology. Consumers are often unaware of how gene editing works, and this lack of understanding can lead to skepticism and fear. However, some examples of consumer products that use gene editing, such as yeast-produced anti-malarial drugs, have already been widely accepted.
Another area of interest is the potential for gene editing in food production. While there is still a lot of uncertainty around this, there are already plant-based products on the market that use genetically modified ingredients, such as Soylent. As technology advances, there will likely be increased interest in the use of gene editing in food production, and it will be important to understand how consumers feel about these products.
It’s also worth noting that the acceptance of gene editing varies among different age groups and demographics. Millennials, for example, are generally more accepting of the technology than older generations. Additionally, there are concerns around the unintended consequences of gene editing, such as the impact on ecosystems and the potential for “doomsday scenarios.”
Overall, the discussion around consumer acceptance of synthetic biology and gene editing is still in its early stages, and there is a lot of uncertainty and hesitation surrounding the technology. However, as the technology continues to advance and products utilizing gene editing become more widespread, it will be important for both industry professionals and consumers to stay informed and engaged in the discussion.
If you’re interested in learning more about synthetic biology and gene editing, be sure to check out the full webinar discussion. With insights from industry experts and a deep dive into the field’s current state, it’s a must-listen for anyone looking to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in biotech.
And welcome to I Select’s industry overview webinar series. At I Select, we are privileged to live at the forefront of innovation seeing emerging problems, solutions, and macro trends at their Genesis years before they make their way into the popular lexicon.
One such macro trend is synthetic biology.
Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research that can be broadly described as design and construction of novel, artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems.
Synthetic biology encompasses several major themes, including genetics, microbiome, and CRISPR, for this reason, and many others, which we will cover in today’s webinar.
Synthetic biology is of increasing interest to Iselect.
A few process comments. First, we are not soliciting investment or giving investment advice in any way whatsoever. This presentation is a general industry research overview based on publicly available information.
Second, we have invited you to this presentation because you are technologists, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, industry experts, early adopter customers or sophisticated investors that are part of the I Select network. We value your thoughts, questions, comments, and insights into this topic. And would greatly appreciate it if you actively engaged during the presentation.
Thank you in advance for your attendance and active participation.
You are all on mute. You can use the chat window to ask a question. After the formal part of the presentation, we will open your microphone so you and ask questions or offer other advice.
And finally, this presentation is being recorded and will be available for replay.
And with that, I am pleased to bring you this week’s I select deep dive on synthetic biology.
Let’s get rolling.
Quickly, covering off on topics for today’s webinar.
We will look into macro trends and opportunities.
Micro, who, what, and where, And finally, analysis, should we invest how and where and companies to consider Let’s start by summarizing findings. As I mentioned at the the introductory overview synthetic biology, It’s a relatively new field that aims to make biology easier to engineer as quietly disrupting traditional manufacturing methods. Leading to the industrialization of biology in a global market estimated to be worth eleven point four billion by twenty twenty one. With the potential to expand the twenty four percent clip through twenty twenty one.
Some interesting early examples include malaria drug manufactured by Sanofi that uses genetically modified yeast.
Synthetic biology are pervasive and growing.
Technology advancement is driving down production costs and making solutions much more economical There are applications across biofuels, specialty chemicals, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, agriculture to name a few, there are some concerns of note, these enabling technologies, CRISPR being the primary and focus here are still very much in their infancy. And I I think there is public anxiety. Are we opening Pandora’s box? We only sequenced the human genome some fifteen years ago.
And CRISPR was only discovered in two thousand twelve, what unintended consequences may result from our playing creator.
Is our future on on one hand, one in which heritable and acquired disease is eliminated, and food and energy are cheap and abundant. Goodbye, cystic fibrosis, cancer, hello, super food and clean fuels, or is it a dystopian future where we create a society of genetic haps and have nots an an engineered solution that that promise a a a a panacea if you will produce unintended consequences designer babies, global pandemics, what what if we let the genie out of the bottle and can’t put it back in These are some of our findings and some of what we will discuss on today’s webinar.
Perhaps today is is the best day. For this webinar because it is rare disease day for those on the call rare to rare to these days, an observance held on the last day of February today. To raise awareness for rare diseases and improve access to treatment and medical representation for individuals with rare diseases.
And their families.
Perhaps perhaps today is is the best day for for this to be held.
Let’s let’s kick things off.
By discussing trends and opportunities.
As I as I mentioned, As I mentioned, Synthetic biology is the design or construction of novel biological parts, devices, systems, and the redesign of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes. That is direct from from nature.
Synthetic biology is is a potential game changer.
And the and the growth in the the startup community over the last five or so years has been dramatic as we will see.
CB insight touches on a a another piece of the definition here. Synthetic biology involves the application of engineering principles to biology often via the manipulation of DNA. It is in that manipulation.
I believe that that many in the the public sphere continue to to have some anxiety around what may result.
Of course, its intention is to develop new biological systems or fundamentally redesign old systems to to improve on on biology.
Quickly some of the background here. The the cost and we’ve touched on this in in previous deep dives, the cost to sequence a genome is decreasing precipitously to say the least.
For for those of you, like me, who have had your genome sequenced through twenty three and me, etcetera, you know that it was It was only some one hundred and fifty, hundred and seventy five ish dollars, whereas in two thousand and one, it was one hundred million dollars to to sequence the first genome, the the cost of which is is declined as you can see an an order of magnitude to OR two, and and proved to continue decreasing in the years to come, enabling a lot of what we will discuss here today.
Similarly, the DNA rewrite costs are decreasing precipitously opening new markets.
Same theme, same result.
A few early products and applications. I I did already mention Sanofi’s genetically engineered malaria drug.
Another is synthetic vanilla.
Pioneered by Evolva, a Swiss biotech, and Of course, Patagonia, and bolt threads are working to commercialize a a jacket made from synthetic spiders silk.
I just would like to highlight a a piece here from the national from the US National Academy, lowered cost, increases in production, speed, flexibility in manufacturing plants, increased production capacity are among the many potential benefits that increase in industrialization of biology may bring to producers and consumers of chemical products that have not previously been available at scale.
Products such as beer and wine, and some medicines and vaccines all require biological processing. This has been, of course, long long adopted.
But but what has changed, however, is the biology can increasingly replace the use petrochemicals, manufacturing, and can circumvent resource intensive harvesting of commercial plants as a result. Synthetic biology is expanding in industries. That are not normally associated with biology. I think that does a a good job summarizing the the broader market opportunity here.
And the market is is vast and growing. A number of estimates peg its size at varying levels, the consensus seems to be that that while the number, whether it’s three point nine billion or, you know, thirty eight point seven billion, that that market size is growing quickly.
BCC research estimates it’s it’s the synthetic biology market.
Will top eleven point four billion by twenty twenty one, growing at a twenty four percent cagr through that period. Of sixteen percent through twenty one percent Allied market research similar forty-four point two percent CAGR from twenty fourteen to twenty twenty and then markets and markets puts the synthetic biology market at twenty and by twenty twenty two, eight point eight billion, growing at that nearly twenty percent compounded annually.
So large growth rates, market size, lot of white space and and room for for new applications.
And as I mentioned, these these applications are are vast.
A number of markets are expected to be impacted by the rise of synthetic biology.
Whether it’s healthcare, you see the the therapeutic space highlighted here from CB Insights, food and agriculture, consumer products, industrials, and then some of the enabling technologies, whether it’s software, or organism design, there is seemingly no industry that that cannot be impacted by the rise of synthetic biology.
We’ll touch on what’s of interest to Iselect here in a in a moment.
But but suffice it to say that that there is an array of of activity in the space much of which is interesting to to investors of all stripes.
As I mentioned previously, the the synthetic biology industry is is growing globally and and at a at a quite a clip from, you know, two thousand and one through twenty team, we’ve seen new companies in the space go from, you know, a measly eighty eight in two thousand one to, you know, more than four x that. Four hundred some odd companies in the space in twenty sixteen credit to Synbio Beta for this research This in my mind is a downstream indicator of some of the technology advances that we’ve seen in the last ten to fifteen years.
As I mentioned, applications in in various industries are are vast. This market map here touches on some of of those particular ventures from CB Insights, be it healthcare, food, and drink, consumer products, ag, biofuels, etcetera.
There are a vast array of firms that have emerged in the last five or so years, and and investment activity in the space has followed that in lockstep.
But before we we launch into to the more specific areas of interest I selected, I’d like to pause for a moment and and highlight to bring into focus some of the the public anxiety.
For for those of you that are are movie lovers and movie goers, I I think Hollywood does a great job of capturing some of the the Zeitgeist, if you will, films like Gattaca, touch on the the future that may arise with designer babies. What what happens when you create a class of human that that has been engineered to produce or or to exhibit certain traits And what happens for for those who who are not designer babies, Gattaca touches on those those themes, which which are increasingly real life.
Elysium, a little further out there, a Matt Damon movie, but but it it touches on a utopia that been created in the sky where you have energy and food in abundance no sickness, no chronic disease, a perfect utopia, but that only exists for the select few.
Will this be what we create unclear? And then and then finally, the the rise of the planet of the apes, a recent reboot of of popular classic for those that haven’t seen the film.
James Franco, the the protagonist character develops a cure for Alzheimer’s. And in his research, infects a chimpanzee with the the cure as part of a study the chimpanzee escapes and the planet of the apes is born. What will we do what unintended consequences will result from our our meddling to be determined hopefully nothing as drastic as what’s been portrayed by Hollywood, but still I think important to to understand some of the the public anxiety.
Think some of these films do a good job of capturing what could be.
Now let’s dive into Micra. Who, what, where?
First of all, the synthetic biology funding landscape has evolved since two thousand and nine, the first year that it was tracked by synbio beta.
We’re we’re looking at nearly two billion invested in twenty seventeen up from some hundred and fifty, two hundred million in in two thousand and nine. There has been a rush of activity in the space as as we’ll see.
And the interesting thing to note is that a lot of the investment has been early. So that the seed Angel and series A contingent continues to to hold strong.
The the early investments in the space you know, comprise some fifty plus percent of of all investments.
Interestingly, however, in twenty seventeen. For the first time, we’re seeing that maturation of the the startup landscape where we’re finally you know, half of all deals done are are sort of your later stage series d, e, and and beyond deals For investors like I select, this is encouraging.
There are so many young companies emerging and opportunities for investment.
This bodes well for for investors like us looking to get in early.
I’ll highlight if you press it in investments. This is research compiled by synbio beta, a little difficult to see, but some of the larger names may ring a bell, Ginkgo Bioworks, they engineer organisms and enzymes, Intelia Therapeutics, and editas medicine to leaders in CRISPR.
Those are some of the larger raises that have occurred or that occurred this year, excuse me, last year in twenty seventeen, and bolt threads, another that I I mentioned working with Paddock Gunya to develop a synthetic spider silk jacket also raised a sizable sum in in twenty seventeen.
These companies raised to synbio Beta’s research at one point seven billion in twenty seventeen. I I think this particular view does a good job of capturing some of the opportunity spaces, whether that’s in food and agriculture, biopharma and health, some of the enabling software, materials, aquaculture, There are, as we’ve seen thus far, a cornucopia of applications for synthetic biology.
And and this map, if you will, I believe, does a a good job of of highlighting some of the more recent raises in the space.
Similar view, but for twenty sixteen, two years ago, over one billion dollars invested in synthetic biology companies in twenty sixteen, person Biobeta, Xyme REGGen, Intelia, Ginko, and Editas, some of the larger raises. Again, those are organism engineering, enzyme development, and and CRISPR, technology companies, several of which have have have already gone public, which we’ll we’ll touch on later in the presentation.
However, important to note there are there are there’s a long tail on on this graph. There are countless early stage ventures that have raised meager paltry sums and and, you know, we’ll prove to to grow and develop through the next three to five years opportunities for for early stage investors like I select.
Some of those leading companies Intelia Therapeutics, I mentioned, Carebu biosciences and other CRISPR application, primarily in the healthcare space.
Kalista all highlights. They’re developing aquaculture feed through a a proprietary and somatic process a lot going on in the space and a lot a lot yet to emerge.
Some of the investors in the space, I’ll highlight here Indi Bio. We’ve we’ve spoke about them. We’ve spoken about them in in a number of different presentations.
Thus far, they are a leading accelerator part of the SOS V network. Another of their pure Accelerators, Revel Bio is another leader in the synthetic biology space.
They’re based in Europe and the UK.
Y Combinator recently launched a a healthcare focused or biology focused track within its its accelerator programming and then bio economy, capital, an early stage fund based out of Seattle.
Those five really in my research have have emerged as leaders at the earliest stage.
Many institutional venture funds have have gotten into synthetic biology, the big names, of course, Kleiner Perkins, Andreson Orwitz, Kolsla Ventures, flagship pioneering, etcetera. But also important to to highlight some of the I’ll call them kind of family office, ish, investors, tech founders, if you will that have come back around to to invest in the space obvious ventures is Ed Williams Fund. He is a founder of Twitter. Amy Cloud Ventures is the the fund of Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo.
Bill Gates has invested in Editas, medicine, Eric Schmidt personally invested in ThimerGen.
And, of course, Peter Teal has invested in bulk threads and and a handful of other synthetic biology companies.
Strategic are also in the space, Monsanto Ventures, Montchino growth ventures, I should say, has has really established itself as a leader in in the investment world in synthetic biology from a strategic standpoint, Cargill as well with their investments in some of the plant based meat ventures Sengenta is active in the space.
That’s this is all more on the the food ag side of things. And then there’s a whole host of folks on the healthcare side, Alexion Novartis, Merck, AstraZeneca, Celgene alumina to name a few. That have have made bets in the synthetic biology world.
Important to note that that from my research, there have been a number of of for nontraditional investors playing in this in this world.
Viking Global Investors, they’re a hedge fund based in Connecticut.
They’ve invested they put some big money to work in the number of synthetic biology, ventures, horizons ventures, is the the sort of venture arm of Liqiang, a Chinese billionaire.
He’s place a number of of large bets in in synthetic biology, Temasek Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund of of the government at Singapore iconic capital. They are wealth management firm that makes private investments, Silicon Valley based. And then I will corner opportunities, investors in Benson Hill, for example, They represent the interest of of Iowa corn growers. So a number of different non traditional venture investors are getting involved which is which is interesting and and and not conventional.
And here’s a bit of why they’re they’re, I think, getting invested. There have been some impressive and sizable exits in the in the space I’ll I’ll quickly characterize an interesting pattern that I I observed.
If you’ll notice Amiris and and bio amber and and in Trexon here, you know, those are twenty ten, twenty thirteen vintage exits, if you will. And then you have a a more recent wave sort of the sixteen, seventeen exit. There’s there’s been in in my view, two waves thus far of kind of synthetic biology exits. I think the first wave you know, with your Amourous, your bioambers, those are largely disappointments.
A number of these ventures are now, you know, either out of business, have been sold for parts.
Very few of them have remained and and or grown and succeeded?
Well, it’s the nature of those businesses. Were they — was there a general theme in terms of what they were going after in the market, a lot of them were biofuels businesses, and and they were going after more commodity. So what John. Will they fitting into synthetic biology because they were manipulating organisms to practically take that product then. And so it was the commodity marketplace, correct, what it caused them to collapse. Yes. Not not a consumer issue over the synthetic biology aspect of this.
Most of the the early so Amerus is a great example. You know, they started out as, you know, more biofuels play. They’ve pivoted into higher value materials for cosmetics and and also actually for for rubbers.
For synthetic rubbers for tires.
Interestingly enough, they’ve they’ve yet to be really successful in the tire space in large part because of the commodity pressure.
But they’ve had more success in their synthetic squealing, which they’ve sold into, you know, the the cosmetics industry.
And have, which has been adopted quite well.
There’s been a, you know, a second wave of of these ventures that have emerged in the last sort of three to five years and and have, you know, quickly IPOed.
Editas, CRISPRapeutics, Intelia, our our three kind of CRISPR Therapeutics businesses that all went public in the last sort of twenty four months, right around the five hundred million dollar valuation range.
And then collects it. Wait. Let’s stop it. Now are z technology is focused on now manipulating genes largely. Is that the commonality here? Yes. So they’re they’re mostly, you know, CRISPR, therapeutic products targeted at rare diseases, oncology, those sort of health more healthcare focused in nature.
So they are, you know, editing gene So they they’re going after a specific products or therapies or — Yes. — so they’re not just the tool set. Correct. Correct.
Okay. Yes. And they’re very early. So no human trials have been performed in in the US, some in China.
But these are, you know, there these are very these are preclinical very much still.
Colexit is another recent liquidity events, they are, you know, a gene editing focused public company in the food and ag space. A bit of a Benson Hill competitor of note.
Look at some recent financings here. There have been in the last sort of twenty four months.
We’ve seen some some larger kind of series b and beyond raises from some of the earlier players in the space, synthetic genomics raise a hundred million dollars series e at a, you know, one billion plus pre money valuation undisclosed investors there.
Ginkgo Bioworks based in Boston in the just December of last year, raised two hundred and seventy five million at a one point one pre-one point one billion dollars excuse me, pre money valuation from Viking Global with the lead there. They’re a Connecticut based hedge fund that I mentioned previously.
Twist Biosciences at seventy five million dollars Series D at a lower pre money than we’ve seen from some of their competitors, three hundred and fifty million pre, still high.
But we’ve seen you know, what we’re seeing here is kind of the the first first of the the sort of Gen three, if you will.
Synthetic biology, ventures, starting to really come into stride, with your more growth rounds raised.
Is there any commonality amongst these companies any common thread? And wave that we’re seeing.
And let me ask it this way too. Do you think that are all of these companies using gene editing versus GMO as the basis for their science too.
So I’m not sure I’m I’m not sure I’m prepared to answer the second part of that.
What I’ll what I can what I can say when I talk to think about the the commonalities here, they’re all b to b products. There are modern meadow is growing leather that can be used in wallets, but it’s sold to manufacturers.
Bull threads, the spider silk, they’re partnering with Patagonia. So there’s there’s no branded consumer place here. It’s all b to b in nature.
Apart from that, there’s – whether it’s a product or a platform, there’s not as much in common there to ginkgo Bioworks and Xyme regen are both sort of engineering enzymes and organisms.
Whereas, you know, Kalista’s developing, you know, they have a proprietary process to to develop fish feet.
On the cheap.
So if it pro premier I guess it depends on how you define and sort of engineering versus editing.
Ultimately, it’s a fine line. Mhmm. But but the commonality here as I as I understand it is they’re all b2B place. Okay.
Some of the strategics and this is just a few and we’ve touched on a number of them already.
But but but Monsanto and and Cargill on the ag side have been two of the more active.
Tyson is dabbling in some of the cultured meat plays course, Merck, Thermo Fisher, Novozymes are are active on, you know, sort of the industrial and healthcare side of things. A few companies that I love to dig in more to in in Trexon is is one that that I felt warrants further investigation, they’re based in Baltimore or outside outside Baltimore.
Recent recent fairly recent IPO.
And and they’ve really succeeded, unlike many of their sort of Gen one counterparts who have sort of failed if you will.
So now that we’ve we’ve looked into some of the specific names and and players, I’d like to to take a moment to to pause and and reflect and bring into focus some of some some of the the opportunities as we understand them.
So should should we invest? Should I select invest? Well, we we already already have, ready are, and we’re we’re currently looking. So companies like Benson Hill, cofactor genomics, Sugarlogix, they are playing in the synthetic biology space quite quite squarely.
And the number of ventures that we’ve taken a look at and have kicked the tires on NIP bio, gelator, ava winery, protein materials, those are very much in the synthetic biology world. So we’re already here, and I think we will we will only continue to grow our our foot in the synthetic biology space given how much white space remains and how much opportunity there is Where should we look?
Given what we mentioned, we touched on moments ago with with some of the larger successes being more b to b plays. I’m I’m weary of the branded consumer products.
I think we don’t yet fully understand the consumer perception of genetically modified, genetically engineered well, genetically modified has a sort of a four letter word medication among consumers.
It remains to be seen what gene edited, GE, CRISPR, what what kind of a a public perception those applications will hold. And and so for that reason, I’m I’m skeptical of some of the branded consumer plays.
I think we ought to consider applications and and soft sort of enabling software, tools that that allow for more rapid prototyping, deployment of products.
In the food and beverage space. Again, steer clear of the branded plays, but I think the applications in sort of food ingredients, flavoring, additives, health and nutrition, more b to b focused are interesting.
Similarly in ag sort of crop and animal enhancement. We’ve already we’ve touched many of these plays Already.
I have invested in a few, of course, but pest control and animal feed as well.
Your your calistas, your beds and hills of the world. These are these are interesting and and compelling place that that we ought to continue to look for.
And then unclear, I’m unsure how I feel about the therapeutics and the industrial. I think the therapeutics for me in in in my my simple mind, it’s easy for me to envision plans of the apes like scenario where we’ve opened Pandora’s box through gene editing and and have unleashed a global pandemic of Epic proportions.
Perhaps that’s that’s hyperbolic and and fear mongering on my part. But but I’m I’m unsettled by some of the the potential negative externalities, and ethical considerations that result from some of the therapeutic solutions out there. That said, as I mentioned previously, hey, it is rare disease day. And and so if we can envision a world where where cancer and cystic fibrosis, are are no longer.
Who am I to to think think think badly of of of those technologies that that enabled that that world to be.
Similarly on the industrial side.
As we mentioned previously, some of the commodity materials and Oils, biofuels plays have had little success that gone public, they’ve been stripped for parts, sold, forced into bankruptcy.
I’m sort of unconvinced that commodities plays will or that many of the industrials plays will be high value enough to sustain some of that price price pressure in the near term. That said, some of the higher value plays are interesting.
I think we’ve seen a number, for instance, in the in, you know, the cosmetics world. Jaltor is an example, Synshark and others that we’ve seen some time ago where they’re taking what could be a commodity product were a process that could result in the prioritization of a commodity product, but instead pivoting it toward a higher value.
Product play and pricing on value, not on a commodity basis. So unsettled in in the industrial space, But but if we can find the higher value applications, perhaps perhaps an area for Iselect.
A number of companies that I’ve I’ve found look promising.
These are but a few.
I’ll I’ll highlight GF enzymes. They’re engineering enzymes for industrial processes, and a few others that we found in other places in our research micro symbiotic is one I believe we’ve we’ve highlighted previously through some of our aquaculture research. And they they like Kalista have a a proprietary process for fish feed in in aquaculture.
A number of interesting plays be that in the, be they in the can add bio space or in the the pharma space much much more room for investigation.
And and sourcing.
So let me let me bring us back to to our summary here if I can take us back to the beginning and summarize our findings here today.
Synthetic biology is is growing. It is it is a a vast white space. We are we’re designing and constructing novel artificial biological pathways, and organisms, devices, and redesigning existing pathways.
The applications for These enabling technologies are vast, be they in biofuels, specialty chemicals, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, However, these enabling technologies are still in their infancy, and I believe there is some, yet some public anxiety around their the the fallout that may result, are we opening Pandora’s box?
As we here, I like to think about alternative futures is the alternative future that we we create through the rise of synthetic biology. One where we’ve eliminated hair heritable and acquired chronic disease and made food and energy cheap and abundant? Or is it one where where we’ve created genetic has and have nots and engineered solutions produce unintended consequences.
I I think that that tension is has have kept many investors at bay.
But but not us and and not and not many of the smarter investors in the space. When we think about opportunities for investments, those those that focus on b to b, high value solutions are interesting.
And worthy of further investigation.
And those in the therapeutic space you know, given some of the regulatory and ethical considerations, I think warrant more digestion.
So that is what I have prepared for today, today’s industry deep dive on synthetic biology.
My name is Dan Griffith, and I’m I’m happy to take any further questions from the audience or from anyone in the room here. Thank you. Anybody in the audience would like to ask a question, you can do so either by typing in the question box in your go to webinar panel. Or you can use the hand raising icon, and we will unmute you and allow you to answer your question. We’ll allow for a few seconds here. If anybody would like to ask questions from our our virtual audience.
So I I I hate to be this person But from a venture capitalist view, the technology is going to move forward. And so the worry about dystopian future is not something that’s even remotely in my consideration. Sure. Sure.
My focus and my perspective on this is where is their consumer acceptance of products so that markets can develop and companies can qualify those those markets? Okay? And so when I listen to this presentation, the thing that strikes me is there’s kind – right now, there’s categories of products where there seems to be widespread consumer acceptance. And there’s categories of products where there’s controversy, and there’s can there’s some there’s camps of broken somewhere and anti consent activity.
And it seems like right now, when I hear what has at least gotten to the stage of getting public and being invested in. The technologies where you’re altering the genes of something to create a product that is an unaltered product. Seems to be widely acceptable right now. But where we have problems and where people haven’t to this is where your modifying gene and the changed gene ends up in the product that’s the end product.
Right? So a great example of that is the Sanofi malaria drug that was altering, genetically altering yeast to to produce the the desired anti malarial effect. That was ultimately pulled from shelves. So to your your spot on there.
That was one of the originals or the first consumer facing. Yes. So then my inside of that then in doing this research, because right now that focuses on genetic modification, okay, in in genetic engineering where you have your humans are manipulating the genes themselves using human tools.
Did you see anything in terms of consumer understanding and consumer acceptance of the CRISPR gene editing. And is there a different view developing in the consumer right now? The consumer marketplace of people work products that use gene editing and the altered gene from that process ends up into end product. Is there more acceptance of that? Are we seeing anything on that yet?
Gosh. So I I think we’re still figuring it out. I think it’s still early days.
Crispr was only discovered in twenty twelve and the leaders in the space are still preclinical.
You know, I think boy. Some of the cultured I think maybe you’ll start to understand consumers acceptance when you look at some of the cultured meat blaze.
I had an impossible burger last night. And it was pretty good. Now that’s a a plant based product.
But, yeah, some of those plant based products may enable the the cultured meat startups. I I think will be the canary in the coal mine for for some of the the gene edited solutions.
But I think the answer is, I don’t know yet. I don’t know if we know yet.
Maybe someone like Natalie Iniqua from from Benson Hill, has a better view on this. In fact, I’m sure she does. A better view on this than I do.
I’m not sure what where consumers have settled on on that yet. Just generationally, like yeah.
We’re noticing it just demographically, the millennial generate generation seems to be more accepting of the CRISPR technology.
Have you guys and just anecdotally and amongst your peer groups seen more discussion and more acceptance of that?
Tom, I would just say as one data point, I’m a soylent drinker and on on the back of a soylent drinker.
Now that’s small, you know, made with genetically modified ingredients I I would say most companies, if they use genetically modified ingredients, kind of try to obfuscate that fact, I think the fact that soylent is kind of proud about it shows that the trend is in favor of of those types of ingredients? Well, but that’s a product that’s targeted at your age group. You’re the demographic that that product is targeted at too. Right? I would say so. Yeah. Interesting.
You know, the countervailing argument there and just to play devil’s advocate, you know, I see like on the shelves at Whole Foods, non GMO water. There are only yet only a handful of genetically modified crops.
And you see this this branding out there that that is, you know, doing the opposite of soylent and I didn’t get some level like misleading consumers.
I don’t know the answer. And I I think maybe Tom, you’re you’re hitting on the right answer. I I just I don’t I don’t know yet. I think we’d still, you know, don’t even maybe to think we’re in the first inning.
Maybe maybe we’re just in the top of the first — Mhmm. Yep. — of this one. I think Mike Mike, I think I see you you have a question.
I will I’ll unmute you here and allow you to ask my cam. Go ahead.
Can you hear me?
Loud and clear. Okay. Well, I I’m not sure I really have a question, but I agree with the comment about acceptance of products.
I think, in general, products that are, say, yeast produced, recovered in an industrial lab and put onto the market, external to the to the organism in which they have produced. Especially drugs, insulin, malaria drugs, things like that. I think are both widely accepted and b. I think most people don’t know where they’re coming from. So there’s not enough knowledge there to create controversy in some ways. And so I think that’s very true.
The other thing I was gonna say is the whole cultured meat thing, I think once it does start to get bigger, it’s gonna be a huge controversy.
And my suggestion, frankly, is to stay away from it at this point, which I think is what I was hearing you say. And I don’t know I don’t know a lot about it, but one of the things to think about looking at down the road is insect proteins. I know there’s a couple startup companies. I’m not sure they’re really high-tech they’re probably fairly low tech.
That’s probably something on a global basis that’s gonna have more play down the road someplace, probably not right now.
That’s about that’s all I wanted to say.
Thanks thanks, Mike. Hey. Just just curious to we have you on the line, you mentioned insect protein as an area of interest.
I know you specialize in or or have some exposure to sort of the indoor farming space. From from your vantage point, Is there anything that you’ve seen that that, you know, Mary’s synthetic biology and and indoor farming and anything that’s of interest to you that you might call out on the call apart from from from the insect cultivation.
You know, I I haven’t yet.
I’ve tried to keep up a little bit with it since working with you all on the on the software.
Company. Yeah. Yeah. Agrilless. Thanks.
But I’m not really I I’m not sure that it’s that advanced yet. I think it’s advanced in the in the use of of microelectronics and and the software side of it. I don’t think the any engineering side or or kind of or biology side of the plant development has been done yet.
When it does when that does happen, I can imagine that it becomes more controversial, quite frankly.
Mhmm. Yeah. We’ve been interested in just and whether people are starting to at least think about engineering plants for specific light conditions or for specific conditions related to indoor farming too. Because it seems like it’s an area where there’s there’s the opportunity for significant improvement in the biology.
But I but the consumer issue, I might be holding people back. So we’re trying to understand that better right now. Yeah. I mean, I think I I think it’s they’re starting to be interest in academia in the indoor farming.
I know there’s over to culturalists and economists here at MSU, they’re starting to study that study it a little bit and look at kind of threats and opportunities or what however you wanna look at it. I think it’s starting to happen. I’m not sure it’s really there yet. And quite frankly, if I were advising the indoor ag community right now, I would say that they’ve got enough problem kind of talking to environmentalist and and people in that of that bent around energy usage.
That if they start migrating into genetic manipulation of plants for indoor production, they’re probably gonna have two camps that they’re gonna have at their heels instead of one.
That’s that’s interesting. That’s a very good perspective. Yeah.
Mike, I’m curious, since we have you on the line, is there anything that we didn’t touch on? Any questions in your mind that that remain unassed and unanswered areas for further investigation.
Well, to be quite honest, synthetic biology is pretty far outside of my realm of daily reading and experience.
Though this was fascinating for me. I think I I I’m interested in the concept of as venture capitalists that we don’t worry about kind of doomsday scenarios with genetic manipulation, and we just kind of worry about is it a good investment at this point. And one of the things that I would just throw out there just again, as an outsider, just throwing it out there is is that there’s a there’s probably a lot of investments in this realm, and I think especially when you start talking about laboratory produced yeast products and things like that, that you don’t have to go down that road at the point when you do go have to go down that road, I actually think it is something that you ought to think about, and how money is used relative to kind of risk, reward, and unintended consequences.
But If if they perceive dilemma academic.
Yes, it’s an interesting dilemma because virtually every technology has the opportunity to be used for good and bad too.
And so we have to face this in real life and what we do.
We have examples of technology that we are working with right now, where we’re in the labs doing treating stage four, geoblastoma, and getting good results.
But that exact same technology could be turned into a weapon of war if someone got their hands on it and used it the wrong way. Sure. So so, you know, I don’t I don’t mean to be flipping when I said what I said. But the but our perspective is that the technology needs to be developed for the good that it can do. And you’d have to rely on, you know, the human Sure. Human race to evolve in a way to be able to handle the technology it develops too.
So — Right. — forgive me if I was too flippant when I said when I said No. And and and, actually, the way that you raise it is really interesting because so there’s almost a a bifurcation point. I mean, yes, there’s technology that that in and of itself is harmless but can be used for good. It can be used for good. It can be subverted in use for bad. There’s a a different pathway in which there’s unintended consequences to ecosystems because we haven’t thought deeply and broadly enough about the implications of of employing technologies out in the field.
Simple example is, you know, the the importation of cane toads into Australia to help deal with an insect pest And then it turned out the cane toad became a pest because there was no natural predator for it in Australia. Suddenly, they’ve got cane toads that they’re running up and down the highway trying to smash with their cars.
So, you know, this I think there’s that bifurcation of, yes, almost any technology can be used for good or bad. And then it’s a question of making sure that it’s only used for good. But then there’s technology that’s employed out in ecosystems that we haven’t done enough of a deep dive to know what are the potential unintended consequences of the use of that technology, independent of human good or bad.
Yes. No. That’s a good point. And the year from MSU, is that Mississippi state?
No. Michigan state. Oh, I was gonna say if it’s Mississippi state, you have Kudzu as a perfect example too. That’s a great example, actually.
Yeah. That’s a great example and and one probably that should should grow a much bigger domestic goat population.
Well, thanks thanks for being on today, and thanks for your your comments and questions too. My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
Thank you, Mike. And thank you to everyone else on the on the call.
As I mentioned, I’d like privilege to live the forefront of innovation. And we we appreciate your attendance on today’s webinar sharing some of our our thoughts and and hearing us digest in real time some of the the the pertinent issues and trends.
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