The 38 wildest outfits Harry Styles has worn over his decade-long career



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article

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Can Synthetic Biology’s Wildest Dreams Save Our World?

Our world is in crisis and the need for ‘moonshot’ solutions has never been clearer. Ideas that once seemed like science fiction, from carbon capture to genome engineering, are now a growing part of daily life. While other industries may ‘play it safe,’ seemingly impossible ideas are the beating heart of the synthetic biology economy—which is estimated to have a direct global impact of up to $4 trillion per year over the next 10-20 years. 

But even as biotech companies shoot for the moon—and beyond—it’s important to be mindful of synthetic biology’s power as a force for change. Synthetic biology’s best intentions gone astray could prevent the industry from achieving its full potential.

The need for open discourse in the biotech industry is what inspired the Leaps Talks series. These discussions are hosted by Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment unit of Bayer, and sponsor of the SynBioBeta Global Synthetic Biology Conference. Jurgen Eckhartd, head of Leaps by Bayer, described the series as “bringing together brilliant minds to discuss the ethics and challenges that biotech breakthroughs will face.” The final Leaps Talk at the SynBioBeta 2020 conference was just that. Kira Peikoff, editor in chief of the editorially independent Leapsmag, led a discussion between investor D.A. Wallach, and synthetic biology mainstay, MIT and Harvard professor George Church. Their conversation recognized the parallel crises of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic and what opportunities and insights the synthetic biology community can take from these difficult times.

Church began the discussion on a note of surprising hope. “I’m embarrassed to say that I’m optimistic, that this is a time of change, a catalyst for new ideas or ideas that have been [overlooked],” says Church. In the context of the global pandemic, he sees initiatives like the BioWeatherMap and new vaccine response infrastructure as significant advances. “It’s a very unfortunate situation, but at the same time, we need to take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented. That’s the only way we could save something out of this,” says Church.

Wallach is also one to see opportunities. Until now, part of the problem in creating vaccines, particularly for everyday illnesses like the common cold, has been a lack of incentive for the biotech industry. Wallach says that infectious disease innovation was largely viewed as the domain of governments and nonprofits. But, in light of the coronavirus, suddenly small companies that work with RNA vaccines turn out to be in line for the biggest opportunities in the entire economy. “I’m fascinated by markets that go from invisible to conspicuous overnight. Most of the biggest opportunities have that quality,” says Wallach.

Nucleic acid-based medicines—medicines that utilize DNA and RNA—have tremendous potential in therapeutics as well as diagnostics. But, for the last ten years, progress in this space has been fairly slow. Now, however, nucleic acid-based tools for point-of-care diagnostics could become a medical industry standard. The ability to test

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