The second morning session

Turns out that being a judge requires one to actually be a judge rather than write blog posts. Grabbing a few minutes to write a post while a somewhat nervous team peppers their presenter with questions to make sure they are ready to give the talk.

The second session this morning was very interesting. Princeton is attempting to implement logical circuits at the level of neuronal cells. They described an implementation of a bistable switch made up of two neuronal cells and a pacemaker cell. Very neat. I also really enjoyed the Taipei team who are working to engineer commensal E. coli to act as a bacterial dialysis machine. It’s a big project that is going to take a lot of work but they have laid out what needs to get done very nicely.

iGEM is go

It’s 10.30am on Saturday morning and I’ve been to two meetings and three talks so far today. iGEM must have started.

One of my meetings was the pre-game meeting for judges. Great to see how seriously the judges are taking the job of judging 80 diverse teams all of whom are giving oral presentations and posters over the course of 8 hours. Tom and Drew, the head judges have done a really nice job of putting a system in place to ensure everyone is judged fairly. The 35 judges have a long day ahead of them…

I’ll be covering the health and medicine track today. We’ve already had the chance to see Calgary talking about engineering bugs to sense and kill pathogens in hosts, Strasbourg gave a nice presentation about their work to build a binary cell division counter in yeast, and finally University of Chicago presented their work to express sticky proteins (normally only made in mussels) in heterologous hosts such as E. coli and Caulobacter. Of note, two of the three teams I saw this morning were first-time teams. iGEM growth continues to be impressive.

On to the next session…

One hundred and fifty pizzas

wiki.pngTo cap an exceptional week (Gobama!), over 1000 students, advisors, and other interested parties are arriving at MIT for the annual iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) competition this weekend. Over eighty teams will be presenting the results of the projects they have been working on feverishly all summer (and right up until late last night in many cases). Continue reading “One hundred and fifty pizzas”

Wise words for uncertain times

Tim O’Reilly on what companies should be doing during these dark economic days: “Work on stuff that matters“. Of course, this is probably good advice regardless of the economic outlook.

Tim talks about “[sensing] a storm coming” and we may actually be entering storm season with an uncertain energy future, an ever increasing world population to be fed, and an ever increasing environmental stress on the planet. These challenges are among the largest our society have faced and are going to require creative solutions on a scale we have little experience dealing with. At Ginkgo, we believe that biological technologies have the capacity to scale to address global problems. So for us “working on stuff that matters” today means developing the foundational technologies that will give society a shot at weathering the storm fronts that are just over the horizon.


ginkgo team iGEM 2006 live demo

One of the projects that inspired us to start Ginkgo was working together as advisers to the 2006 MIT iGEM team. iGEM is the international genetically engineered machines competition and it challenges teams of undergrads to spend the summer competing to engineer the coolest biological system. If you haven’t done much molecular biology you might not appreciate how preposterous it is to suggest that novice undergrad researchers can get anything serious done in the lab in 3 months. However the MIT team of 4 freshmen and 2 sophomores managed to build a multi-gene metabolic pathway that programmed e.coli to stop smelling “like poo” (as reshma put it on NPR) and instead smell like either mint or bananas. How could they engineer a working system that fast? By using standardized DNA assembly methods and building on a pre-existing collection of standard biological parts, of course!

Horses, saddles, and microbes…

The sight of humans riding on horseback for the first time must have been a startling sight for onlookers. One wonders what those onlookers made of the event. An objective observer might have noted that the harnessing of a natural organism for personal transport was a major step forward for our species. A forward-looking observer might have predicted that we would soon be able to construct new and better horses to carry us farther, faster, and in more comfort than the horses of the day. Such hopes might have been questioned by a pessimist convinced that something as complex as a horse would never be fully understood, nor significantly improved upon.

And so it is today with Biotechnology. Continue reading “Horses, saddles, and microbes…”

It’s business time…

We’ve learnt a lot while reading the 37signals blog, both about building a great company and also about having a blog worth subscribing to.  So, taking inspiration from Signal vs. Noise, we’ll share things we learn along the way about starting a company.  We hope these tips will be of some use to other start-ups, especially Biotechnology start-ups seeking to grow without losing control of company direction.

We’re happy to announce that Ginkgo is now a Delaware Corporation and certified to do business in MA. Continue reading “It’s business time…”