DigitalCulture.LA

147: IndieBio: Bringing Entrepreneurship to Scientists

August 23, 2018 Episode 147
DigitalCulture.LA
147: IndieBio: Bringing Entrepreneurship to Scientists
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DigitalCulture.LA
147: IndieBio: Bringing Entrepreneurship to Scientists
Aug 23, 2018 Episode 147
Brittney Gallagher
There is a lot of excitement in the world of biology, but biology and biotech startups are hard and expensive. You need a lab, equipment, and highly specialized knowledge. The barrier to entry is much higher than say… building an app. My guest this week is Dr. Jun Axup, scientific director and partner at IndieBio, who are working to change that and help scientists bring their research to market. I spoke w Jun about IndieBio, some amazing companies that have gone through the program, trends we are seeing, but we first what brought Jun to biology.
Show Notes Transcript
There is a lot of excitement in the world of biology, but biology and biotech startups are hard and expensive. You need a lab, equipment, and highly specialized knowledge. The barrier to entry is much higher than say… building an app. My guest this week is Dr. Jun Axup, scientific director and partner at IndieBio, who are working to change that and help scientists bring their research to market. I spoke w Jun about IndieBio, some amazing companies that have gone through the program, trends we are seeing, but we first what brought Jun to biology.
Speaker 1:
0:06
I'm Brittany Gallagher, reporting to you on digital culture for digital village. There's a lot of excitement in the world of biology, but biology in biotech startups are hard and expensive. You need a lab. You need equipment and highly specialized knowledge. The barrier to entry is much higher than say building an APP. My guest this week is Dr. June, accept scientific director and partner at Indie Bio who are working to change that and help scientists bring their research to market. I spoke with June about indie bio, some amazing companies that have gone through the program, think an external kidney, three d printed organs. Some trends we're seeing in biotech, but we start with what brought you to biology.
Speaker 2:
0:49
I started learning biology in high school and really got the opportunity to do hands on biology programs like Science Olympiad in high school and that led me to a phd in working with unnatural amino acids and synthetic biology and also using that to create immuno oncology drugs, so using t cells and bringing them to kill cancer. From that, I also was experiencing a lot of the startups, especially in software and hardware space and so I was really interested in entrepreneurship. Eventually worked at many startup companies in the bay area. Also working in immuno oncology and then crispr and automation and then I ended up co founding a company that went through Andy Bio and that's kind of been my connection with indie bio and now I am the scientific director and partner at Indie Bio.
Speaker 1:
1:46
How does it work?
Speaker 2:
1:48
Yeah. Be Bio is a startup accelerator program and were devoted specifically to life sciences, but we're very agnostic around what the biology is able to do and we ended up capturing all fields of biology and so I didn't score any bio aim to turn scientists and entrepreneurs and we try to impact the world by helping with planetary health and human health. So we're really looking to transform systems and we think that biology being something that can grow naturally and can scale naturally and obviously something that totally encompasses our world in our individual lives that we can. The biology has massive capabilities and technologies just like how software and hardware has been transforming the girls. More recently we kind of started indie bio under challenging a couple of conventional wisdoms, first of all, that funding biology and must be very expensive, but scientists aren't entrepreneurs and that biology essentially is just therapeutic and we've been able to challenge all of that, especially adapting the lean startup and entrepreneurship mindset to say you don't have to build a gigantic immediately.
Speaker 2:
3:01
What if you just get a little bit of money to test your hypothesis? Can we make the grounds for a very successful company in the future? We think that scientists make great entrepreneurs, that they're already very knowledgeable and very studious and resilience and um, and learn very rapidly that they themselves are often times the ones who worked with a technology for so long and they should be also be the ones to take that and bring it to the world. And then now that we're seeing there are more tools available, we construct biology it outside of what is traditionally fives. Just therapeutic diagnostics and medical devices into areas like future food and consumer biotech and neurotechnology and even regenerative medicine and stem cell research as well.
Speaker 1:
3:51
What does indie bio provide to their scientists, entrepreneurs.
Speaker 2:
3:54
So we actually provide 250 and to pride that we take equity and we provide both coworking space or office space and also laboratories that we have a molecular biology and cell biology lab. And so that's one of the biggest barriers to entry for biotech companies is if you don't have a prototype and early results, then you're not gonna be able to get funding and if you don't have funding then how are you going to get lab space and filed instruments and reagents that you need. So that's part of the real value of indie bio is that we provide all the infrastructure that you would need to really kick off your company. But in addition to the infrastructure, we also have a full program where we bring in experts from all different fields, mentors be do panel discussions and more importantly to we start building our network.
Speaker 2:
4:43
So we've had 94 companies throw programs so far and they themselves are their own social network and community to really interchange all the knowledge that's happening around building biotech companies and our program is four months, which is almost impossible to think about in in the span of scientific research, but what we really challenge the company has to do is to figure out what is that minimal buyable product, what is that de risking moment that be risking dataset that they would need in order to be attractive to the next round of investors. So it is definitely a huge crunch and we challenged them and not thinking about doing science for science sake and curiosity sake, but how do you build a product out of it and how do you really test that product with customers and through that iteration cycle, much like the lean startup and all kind of entrepreneur ship ethos that you see. I'm in software and hardware is really being adapted to biology as well.
Speaker 1:
5:45
What's an example of a future of food company?
Speaker 2:
5:49
The most famous company, and I'm proud of our accelerator is called Memphis meats. They grow lab grown meat, so they take a biopsy, stem cells from an organism like pig or a cow or chicken and they grow that up in the lab and so instead of growing up whole animal you, you teach your culture techniques and the way we treat any kind of cells in the lab or we can actually roll that meat and the reason why I want to do this is because it cuts down carbon footprint, obviously doesn't harm the animals and we think that this is a viable way to stale meat production in the future as meet demand is increasing all across the world.
Speaker 1:
6:32
Have they made a burger yet?
Speaker 2:
6:34
They house, they made a meatball and they have made several different types of prototype. At the moment it's still very expensive, so a lot of the technology is around how to make that cheaper to get to mass market production, but they think they can do that in the next couple of years.
Speaker 1:
6:50
That's really exciting. So what's an example of some of the regenerative medicine companies that you're looking at?
Speaker 2:
6:55
Yeah, my favorite company is called Trellis buy watches. They are three d printing organs, so the idea is in the future you can take your stem cells and they can grow and entire kidney replacement for you or any other organ and the way they're doing it. Of course you think of three d printing as plastic extrusion, layer by layer. The problem with that is that if you graft collagen and then graph cells onto it, the resolution is just not high enough. So this company uses to. Photon lasers are literally two photon to solidify collagen inside a fish tank like that. So if you imagine a bat of an polarized collagen and cells floating around, they then make little structures around the cells to encapsulate them into place and so they've been able to do demonstration showing that they tend to make capillaries, which is the most high res thing you will need to do in order to build an Oregon.
Speaker 2:
7:55
And they've been successfully able to do that. We're still a long ways from a kidney, but they have started with smaller amounts of organs and there's kind of building that out with different types of cells. From the consumer side, you know, we, we already use a lot of biotech in our daily life, but for some more specific ones, we have one called nerd skincare that's actually a prebiotic for your face to fight acne, so it's a nutrient that feeds the good bacteria and then the good bacteria and naturally suppress the bad bacteria. That's really neat in a very different way of carrying out. There wasn't normally usually harsh chemicals or acids. There are things like Michael works that are growing leather from mushrooms and so they're able to grow an entire power type of leather and two weeks instead of growing up the whole cow.
Speaker 2:
8:45
That takes two years and of course a lot of environmental resources know industrial side as well. I was a company called lingual that is making wood without. So 90 percent of the high end wood in the world have actually been before stirred already. So we can't really have nice texture in the future because all be quality woods have been used. So what they do is they actually take slack and the stem of the flax and mix that with a resident and make this beautiful, moldable plastic type material that looks like wood and it's beautiful and it's also much harder than what this is actually a performance product that both has the, the look and feel. And then of course we have more traditional medical devices and therapeutics companies as well. But usually they have a very different angle as compared to what other big pharmaceutical companies are doing.
Speaker 2:
9:46
A. So from like medical devices, we have a company that's doing a wearable kidney. They're called kidney labs. Whew. I D e, n I. and so the wearable can, we devise, would allow people to not have to be hooked up to dialysis. Um, another company is looking at blood markers, diagnose autism, which rating now autism is diagnosed via behavioral tasks around age four. And they're hoping that with the blood test they can diagnose much earlier and potentially even prenatally so that there can be interventions done and from the therapeutic side. And we're really interested in gene therapy and how that might affect the future of humanity, but there's a lot of challenges with incorrectly right now if you just inject DNA, especially even if the package, it doesn't necessarily go to the right place. Um, and it also sometimes it caused immune responses. So we have companies that are working on those kinds of technologies to make gene therapy Bible,
Speaker 1:
10:45
right. Gene therapy is incredibly complex and could have some very bad consequences. I want to shift gears a bit to theranose the biotech Unicorn startup that claimed it could run a whole host of tests with just a drop of blood, but ended up being a total fraud and costing investors hundreds of millions of dollars. Are you seeing any pushback in the industry at all?
Speaker 2:
11:08
I think it's definitely been a big warning sign and people are dissecting it and understanding what went wrong and people already looking at companies a little more closely. Definitely taking a little bit more of the science approach and, and really trying to understand science for companies. I feel like it definitely is an anecdotal thing that people talk about in the bay area and our companies even talk about it, but it's more of what not to do and I don't think while investors are more cautious a little bit around these warning signs, I think the investment of going into biotech is still going up because they all see that this is a really great technology. We are just at that cost where we start to engineer with biology instead of biology previously has essentially been a a science where you are digging in and understanding the nature of biology.
Speaker 2:
12:03
We're just at that position where we can start, read, write, copy, cut and paste DNA effectively that we can start engineering. So with all the timing I think is still is still going on. We'll be. We'll be going up for quite awhile, but they're enough to give us some warning signs. We say, Hey, let's get back. Let's make sure things are going properly. Things are real, that things are grounded in science. So I think in some way made the industry stronger because there's a higher level of quality and a higher bar that people have to have to pay attention to.
Speaker 1:
12:39
That makes a lot of sense. What are some overarching trends you're seeing in biotech?
Speaker 2:
12:45
Yeah, I think um, some of the big trends I think we're seeing in biotech, it's really trying to diversify biology from or something that's human health into understanding planetary health too. So all the Food and agriculture innovations and areas that we're also really interested in is carbon capture. Can we do something with ocean? Can we replace plastics, all these big systems that need to be shaken up and there's tons of problems out there that biology can relate to, try to address. And so that's, that's really exciting. And also seeing the convergence of different fields, we see a lot more ai and machine learning going into biology to try to solve problems. We see a lot of different new types of therapeutics that are not kind of your conditional small molecule being now and those things are starting to have positive results. So it's a really exciting time.
Speaker 2:
13:44
It's gonna be awhile for these companies to get to the stage where they're producing products, you know, they kind of have five to 10 year horizons. I'm super excited in five to 10 years to see what life will be like, like indie bio, you know, our mission is determined scientists and entrepreneurs and we think that there are so many great scientists doing amazing research and now is also the time to bring that research out of the lab and into the world to address real world problem amongst scientists. Their careers are wrapped around publishing a paper and then afterwards they might want to do something more with it but they don't know how to. So that's what I'd be buyer tier four. We try to bring in those scientists who really wants to see their product and either science back to humanity and we bring them in and we try to teach them how to do entrepreneurship and how to get to the next level with their companies. And I think that will be absolutely amazing for all mankind because we are seeing now that our technology that we make is creating selective pressure against species and we're actually almost essentially changing our genomes in ways and into the future and so it is extremely impactful on is extremely needed in our society to really think consciously about what kinds of technologies do want to build, what kind of solutions we want to provide, and even create new technologies and benefits all of humanity.
Speaker 1:
15:16
My guest this week is Dr June, accept scientific director and partner at indie bio who are helping scientists bring their research out of the lab and into products. We're in the age of biology. We can sequence a human genome in under a day for under a thousand dollars were less than 20 years ago. It took 13 years and a billion dollars. Now we're able to leverage technologies like Crispr to edit DNA, three d printing organs, lab grown meat geoengineering to fight climate change or create new more sustainable materials to name just a few. During the Internet revolution, we have seen the technology can have unintended consequences, especially when operating on large scale systems. There is an imperative for those creating technology and biotech to think through potential future implications. I followed up with June about ethics and Indiebio. They talked to their company's about leaning into ethics and regulation rather than running away from it. Most of the companies talk to regulatory bodies during the program to understand their path to market and potential issues that could arise.
Speaker 1:
16:14
Of course, it was never predicted that the arpanet initially way for scientists to communicate with one another will become something we use every day as George Church who developed methods used for the first genome sequence among many other things that the rewards for biotechnology are tremendous. To solve. Disease, eliminate poverty age gracefully. It sounds so much cooler than facebook. I'm looking forward to our biology driven future and excited to see what it has in store. That's it for this week's edition of digital culture. I'm Brendan Gallagher. You can find out more on our website@digitalculture.la. Follow us on twitter at dish culture, la or
Speaker 3:
16:49
me on twitter at any quantum.
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