Golden day for 23andMe: Time’s 2008 Invention of the Year

This is a golden day for 23andMe despite all crisis worries:

Mountain View, CA (PRWEB) October 30, 2008 — TIME Magazine announced today that the Personal Genome Service™ from 23andMe, Inc. has been named 2008’s Invention of the Year. 23andMe was chosen as the year’s most significant invention for its exceptional work in making personal genomics accessible and affordable.

From the industrial point of view what are the components of success here besides the obviously good team:

- mission: big, Google-sized mission: revolution of health care by personal genetic information as the source of upcoming personalized medicine

- biotechnology: based on the highest available technology platforms in microarrays (Illumina) (watch out, next gen sequencing is in the corner!)

- capital investment and network effect: I can only repeat myself:  23andMe is probably the most well-connected and backed startup in the history of Silicon Valley.(photo: happy 23andMe founders and early customers)

- information technology the cool and user-friendly factor of the browser based service is really amazing (in the past couple of weeks I demonstrated it to a bunch of people and even those were able to catch the essence of the available information who are older, web-unsavvy)

- simplicity of service: you just spit 2ml into a tube and FedEx it

- most aggressive marketing strategy based largely on the network effect among the power elite of the USA (and consequently, the world)

From the consumer point of view let me tell you 1 personal example of the lifestyle effect of the service: Continue reading

Mountain View – Budapest: 20 days to get my 23andMe profile!

I ordered my first commercial genetic profile from 23andMe on the 9th of September online, FedExed my 2 ml saliva from Budapest to 23andMe, Mountain View on the 12th of September. I got the results today. That said within 3 weeks since the birth of the idea I purchased more than 500 000 SNPs of mine analyzed, evaluated and ready to be browsed. With this step I finally and quickly entered into the age of personalized genetics no matter how embryonic it is.

After a superficial first scan of my results I can say that it is a really interesting thing that instantly pushes me towards accumulating more knowledge on the personalized genetics field concerning specific traits, stats, risks and studies.

Here is a first look on what my Y chromosome SNPs are saying on my paternal haplogroup:

I learned for instance that based only on my genotype and not any environmental factors involved I have a lower than average risk Continue reading

Even ugly handwriting can fit the informal nature of SciFoo

I had problems with my handwriting since elementary schools, or at least my teachers had continuous problems with it. Even during my university years I was asked sometimes to read out loud my essays, papers to them otherwise risking bad grades. Maybe it’s because I am a hidden right-handed using my left hand for writing or maybe I am just too impatient over the slow pace of handwriting (needless to say computers mostly solved this problem).

On this George Dyson photo here you can see the SciFoo schedule in progress and I think you can easily pick the one with the ugliest handwriting on Aging and Life Extension:

Sergey Brin, Gly2019Ser & a real chance against Parkinson disease/aging!

It was already known that amongst the Google top people Sergey Brin is the one who is most interested in pushing biotechnology and the biomedical sciences: in his Stanford years he was interested in biology courses according to The Google Story, he married Anne Wojcicki (who graduted from biology at Yale), Google invested $4.4 million into 23andMe the pioneering personal genomics company co-founded by Anne, then Google invested into 23andMe competitor Navigenics too.

Now Sergey Brin added another, serious and personal reason to think that he is really, personally committed to the quick progress in the biomedical sciences: in his new blog – already a bit of an Internet history – called Too he disclosed that using the 23andMe personal genetics service he figured out something worrying about his and his family’s risk of Parkinson disease (his mother and her aunt are being already diagnosed with PD):

“I learned something very important to me — I carry the G2019S mutation and when my mother checked her account, she saw she carries it too.
The exact implications of this are not entirely clear. Early studies tend to have small samples with various selection biases. Nonetheless it is clear that I have a markedly higher chance of developing Parkinson’s in my lifetime than the average person. In fact, it is somewhere between 20% to 80% depending on the study and how you measure.

The G2019S mutation is actually the rs34637584 SNP and lies in the gene LRRK2 encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase on chromosome 12. The mutation affects the first codon of the gene and is a guanine (G)-to- adenine (A) substitution resulting known as a missense and  leads to a glycine – serine (hence the name) amino acid conversion in the protein product. Here is how the SNP position looks in the 23andMe browser using the sample family, the Mendels.



23andMe’s amazingly good corporate blog The Spittoon cited a recent article about the chances: Continue reading

Just ordered my 23andMe kit for $399+shipping!

It was time for me to enter personally into the age of commercialized-personalized genetics/genomics and not just to talk about it! New price, new customers! Here is my suggestion to the sales department of 23andMe!
23andMe Democratizes Personal Genomics With New Analytical Platform

Life extension people & session at SciFoo 2008, Googleplex!

Last year I was probably the only SciFoo Camper with an explicit life extension commitment. I suggested & held a session which was related a bit to partial immortalization but was rather about the systems biology perspective in general, illustrated with some examples. So throughout the terrific SciFoo Camp 2007 life extension as a conversation topic remained rather implicit (ok, close to zero) and there was not much room to discuss it in the lack of other fellow life extensionists.

In my opinion the whole point of unconferences is to form the good aggregate of people with a common interest & similar/complementer message to join forces in order to draw enough (intellectual) attention for their topic. In this context, an unconference is about topics at the first place, not just about people. Idea networking is as important as social networking.

And if something fits 100% with the idea of SciFoo it is life extension/aging just as handling terrantic scientific datasets, open science or climate change as all these topics are utterly complicated and quite urgent screaming for the attention of the smartest people.

So I emailed Timo Hannay, SciFoo organizer:

“One thing I’ve noticed is that it would be very good to organize a session on scientific life extension technologies and consequences, because the SciFoo people are ideal to see and discuss all angles of this really important topic.”

And…..here is a session suggestion for SciFoo Camp 2008: Continue reading

UCSF Memory & Aging Center channel on YouTube & ‘Fight for Mike’

Even tech people in Silicon Valley need to join their powerful forces and sources when it is about aging related neurodegenerative diseases and help research and the clinic.

UCSF Memory and Aging Center channel on YouTube 

Om Malik: A Personal Note: Pause & Read via John Battelle

 

Innovation stop: “All they’ve done is created an extra billing event for the doctor”

It’s my first real encounter with a situation in which the officials of the state of California are clearly against innovation for financial reasons obvious enough (is enough):

Wired Science, Alexis Madrigal, upcoming BioBarCamper:

Exclusive: DNA Tester Reveals Cease-and-Desist Letter

Wired.com has obtained a copy of the cease-and-desist letter sent to Navigenics by the state of California’s Public Health Department from a company spokesperson.

The letter’s strongest wording is reserved for another section of the law, Business and Professions Code Section 1288, which requires a doctor’s note for all laboratory tests, unless, like pregnancy tests, they are exempt from that law.

“Genetic tests are NOT exempt,” the letter reads. “As such, the test must be ordered by a physician or surgeon.” Continue reading

Future stop: California health officials against personal genetics risk-takers

It’s official: The California Department of Public Health wants practicing physicians (many of them prehistorically, sorry, traditionally trained) to be the patres familias in issues between personal genetic test takers and direct-to-consumer personal genetic testing start-ups while declining the test takers’ right to get familiar with their own genetic makeup and risks by their own.
Calif. cracks down on 13 genetic testing startups

California health regulators have demanded that 13 direct-to-consumer genetic testing startups halt sales in the state until they prove they meet state standards. All the companies have two weeks to demonstrate to regulators that their laboratories are certified by the state and federal governments, said department spokeswoman Lea Brooks. The startups also must show the tests they are selling California residents have been ordered by a doctor as required by state law.

I give you trusted links instead of complicating your day with my own opinion: Continue reading

The Sergey, Larry, Eric test by Anne & Linda: 23andMe at home

“We really think that we can change Health Care…I want to change it in 5 years…it has to change and that’s we all are about” – says Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe co-founder, in the Google Tech Talk on Googling the Googlers’ DNA: A Demonstration of the 23andMe Personal Genome Service.

Also a good presentation by Linda Avey, other co-founder, for instance on data privacy and service security: “We take the security of our customers’ data to the highest degree…you guys (Googlers) are very much of the same mind..One of our leading engineers is probably the most paranoid man we’ve ever meet and he is the perfect guy for that.

Here are my screenshots on the genetic puzzle on the Google triumvirate presented by Anne Wojcicki:

Continue reading

BioBarCamp: August 6-7, The Institute for the Future, Palo Alto

When I wrote about BioBarCamp for the first time, it was just an idea to organize an unconference for biogeeks, people interested in life scientists around SciFoo Camp time.

Now thanks to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Science X2 project leader, we have a date and a venue: August 6-7, The Institute for the Future, 124 University Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301.

Capacity: around 100 people and we already have 15 signed up.

Sign up here (first-come, first-served)

Join the discussion, suggest topics/sessions or follow the wiki.

23andWe follows 23andMe: First generation of Consumer-Enabled Research

Consumer-Enabled Research, the second goal of pioneering personalized genetics company 23andMe, reached its first generation with the launch of 23andWe.

From BusinessWire:

“23andWe marks a new approach to genetics research. By directly involving 23andMe customers in the company’s research projects, the goal is to conduct large-scale studies powered by a web-based community of diverse individuals who are willing to share information (on a confidential basis) about their health and other personal traits.”

video via Deepak

As Esther Dyson’s said on The Spittoon blog, which is the corporate blog of 23andMe: What You Can Do for 23andMe (and Future Generations) Continue reading

Sergey Brin goes mobile in 2000 & a Russian lesson

Sergey Brin, Google co-founder is a very interesting man. His story is the number one immigrant success story in the USA today, I dare say. I have 2 Brin videos to show you today:

In the first one, Sergey demonstrates mobility in 2000 in 3 ways with his ‘faint accent that is no longer identifiably Russian’ (I really like this presentation as you can learn many things on how to give and not to give a talk):

In the second video Sergey speaks in his native language, Russian but with a “huuuge american accent” as a Russian colleague of mine wrote to me in an email. Continue reading

O’Reilly Startup Camp for geeky biotech startups too!

The O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures Startup Camp is a nice option for the emerging personalized genomics companies or any web-related biotech startups to communicate and cooperate with alpha geeks and early technology adopters.

Tim O’Reilly writes:

The Thursday and Friday (July 10-11) before this year’s Foo Camp in Sebastopol July 11-13, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures will be hosting OATV Startup Camp. This startup boot camp will consist of sessions led by startup veterans and other experts in a roundtable discussion format on various topics important to founders. The sessions will be more of a conversation on each topic rather than a lecture, in which participants will learn from each other as well as from entrepreneurs who’ve already been successful. Continue reading

How to predict the future via Twitter: Google invests in Navigenics

Wow, I guess it’s time for me to move into the stock market business! Here’s the story via David Bradley’s tweet: Julie Kent, Search Engine Journal, April 21st, 2008: Google Wants to Index Genetic Information, Invests in Second DNA Start-Up

In 2007, Google made headlines when they invested $4.4 million in 23andMe, a genetic screening start-up company began by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and a business partner. But if you thought that was Google’s only interest in genetics and DNA, you’re wrong. Google has also been investing in a second DNA start-up called Navigenics, which for $2,500 and a small bit of saliva will provide you with genetic test results delivered securely online containing information about the likelihood for 18 medical conditions.

What’s really funny here is that I predicted this investment last Friday, on the 18th, on Twitter. The original idea was Aaron Swartz’s Google thought experiment: Imagine you were suddenly put in charge of Google. What would you spend your time doing? I came up with this answer (picking Navigenics because of ther profile and location) on behalf of Sergey Brin:

The whole tweetstream: Continue reading

Dear StartupSearch: Is 23andMe a web-based startup or not?

1. A start-up is a company with a limited operating history (Wikipedia).

2. Startup search

“tracks the web technology ecosystem commonly referenced as “Web 2.0.” We collect facts and figures about new web products, startup companies, key startup employees, and the funding dollars powering their growth.”


3. 23andMe is a pioneering web-based, personalized genomics startup (founded in April, 2006) with a high-tech service, a definitely “Web 2.0″ website & investors most Web 2.0 startups only dreaming of.

4. Why is 23andMe not tracked by StartupSearch? Continue reading

The second goal of 23andMe: using customer’s real health data later

Esther Dyson‘s honest post on getting the genotype-health risk correlation statistics right on The Spittoon blog: What You Can Do for 23andMe (and Future Generations)

To learn more, researchers need to collect thousands of genetic profiles – and the health data connected with each of them – to find correlations between the two. That leads to a second goal of 23andMe – to collect a large database of genetic information and then come back to you over time with invitations to provide specific health data and participate in research.

We’re not asking you to do this for purely altruistic reasons – either on our part or on yours. We’re a profit-seeking company, even though our founders and employees – and directors! – all share the vision of better understanding of everyone’s genomic make-up. As for you, the research results your data help produce could translate directly into benefits for you, or at least for your children, grandchildren and friends.

Now imagine a world (2009?) in which 23andMe genotype profiles could be uploaded to your Google Health profile with one click (see picture).

23andMeandGoogleHealth

Anyway, Dyson’s argument is using the “intergenerational justice” card, that is related to life extension technologies too. Dyson, an information exhibitionist also shares an interesting correspondence between her and her brother George Dyson on the growing health genomics information demand of people: Continue reading

The Spittoon: the eminent corporate blog of 23andMe and Consumer Enabled Research

ceramicspittoonpictureThe personal genomics service 23andMe just launched publicly a corporate blog called The Spittoon that has been internally up for a few weeks. It is a new chapter in biotech corporate blogging. Just like the web page of 23andMe, The Spittoon’s WordPress blog platform, the concept and design is excellent: amongst others you can find scientific blog posts written by Matt Crenson science writer and posts written by founders Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki in the name of radical transparency. As Wired fellow Clive Thompson wrote:

Radical forms of transparency are now the norm at startups – and even some Fortune 500 companies. It is a strange and abrupt reversal of corporate values. Not long ago, the only public statements a company ever made were professionally written press releases and the rare, stage-managed speech by the CEO. Now firms spill information in torrents, posting internal memos and strategy goals, letting everyone from the top dog to shop-floor workers blog publicly about what their firm is doing right – and wrong. Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, dishes company dirt and apologizes to startups he’s accidentally screwed. Venture capitalists now demand that CEOs be fluent in blogspeak.

Radical transparency could be standard in the case of Silicon Valley tech startups but in the Biotech Industry the standards are light years away from that. For instance the 23andMe research team communicates publicly on the biparental inheritance of mitochondrial DNA which is a sensitive issue concerning their genealogy service. The reason why Spittoon is so web-friendly and uptodate and is in fact a paradigm corporate blog for every other biotech company in the future is its web-based business model and Google-like corporate culture thanks to its networking background.

For instance, Anne Wojcicki co-founder introduces the concept of Consumer Enabled Research in her introductory blog post The Power of We:

spittoon

Our goal at 23andMe is to enable individuals to form communities around shared interests and to empower those communities to be actively involved with research. We call it Consumer Enabled Research. We don’t just want communities to have a voice, we want to provide a platform for them to collectively aggregate their genetic information. One of the significant bottlenecks in research is the lack of data. Researchers and physicians rarely have enough of it to really understand a disease or how to treat it. Our goal is to change that.

After registration readers can make comments and I strongly hope that the comment system will not be shut down (just like in the past at BoingBoing), but for that commenters should be on-topic and moderate. I’ve just commented Wojcicki’s post, but I’d like to share it with you here too: Continue reading

Working without a personal assistant on the top of the big G…is fun!

brinpagenewyorker

I’m on my way to a Friday comprehensive exam from stem cell and mitochondrial biology which gives me no time to immerse into blogging this week. I mostly think of big holes in my knowledge like mitochondria and Ca2+ signalling. That’s why I can only offer soft things like the following quote from a fresh New Yorker article by Ken Auletta called The Search Party on Google:

Continue reading

My transatlantic air reading: Bubble City, a blog novel by Aaron Swartz

bubble city samplesAt least I know what I will read on the plane over at the Atlantic tomorrow back to old Europe: Bubble City by Aaron Swartz. What by who? Bubble city is a blog tech novel with chapters as posts. The story takes place in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley around a startup called Newsflip going deep into current web techniques, startup happenings, Google trends & types and tokens of people with the tools of fiction. It is well written, it is witty, I’ve just started but quickly became excited about it due to its experimental character and the insider angle of the writer behind. Bubble City is the brainchild of Aaron Swartz Reddit cofounder, who is an extremely talented 20 year old American programmer, hacker (think of George Hotz or young Saul Kripke tinkering with modal logics), although in his blog Raw Thought (long time blogroll guest of Pimm) he usually writes like an old central European, highbrow human intellectual with the necessary cultural references. And that makes him a very interesting phenomenon, one that is almost missing in the American tech-web scene: an intellectual with a broad spectrum of interests and arguments. I met Aaron at the last seconds of the SciFoo Camp at the Googleplex (he writes a lot about the Number One Plex) and really liked his celebrity focused gossip liveblogging account on the event with people like Tim O’ Reilly and Henry Gee explaining themselves in the comment section.

Hopefully Aaron will be able to finish Bubble City by excluding or neutralizing or properly incorporating outworld reflexion (like this and that of Blogoscoped) into it. Finishing a novel and completing a code are not the same though and epic talent has the bad habit not to let young writers reach perfection in their early trials.

Here are 2 sections from Bubble city and the links to the 11 chapters so far (it is not aggregated as far as I know and you always have to change the numbers at the end of the URL):

Chapter 1

He popped open the recording software, making sure he got his nose squarely in its frame, his face so close thataaron swartz spittle would land on the lens. In a world where every teenage kid could stream a live feed of himself having sex to millions, only the most aggressive vlogcasters survived. Wayne was no dummy. He didn’t get to be the number seven blog in the TechnoScene rankings by sitting back and offering his opinions. No. This was war and every show a battle.

Today’s enemy? Newsflip, one of the crummy little online news aggregator sites, which was threatening to write him out of the history books by dumping the technology he’d single-handedly invented, news notation analysis (NNA), and going with some upstart competitor that didn’t even bother to have an acronym for a name. Sure, Newsflip was a tiny site in the scheme of things, but if it switched it would set a dangerous precedent.

Chapter 2

Downtown San Francisco is a world of carefully-gridded streets and looming skyscrapers, but hidden behind a gas station on Third is a place that almost looks like another world. The sun shines brightly upon a park with green grass and tall shady trees and vibrant swings with children. The park is an oval and the perimeter is lined with small, pastel-colored buildings. Here and there are a smattering of small cafes and restaurants. And the other buildings are filled with startups. Twitter here. Adaptive Path there. Even Yahoo, when it wanted to encourage its employees to be more startup-y, opened up an office in the neighborhood. Sit on the grass and chances are you’ll sit near a friend from another company or bump into them in line at a cafe. The place crawls with companies and back on the street, surveying the scene with a distant but watchful eye, lie the journalists, whose publications cover with awe the rumblings of those below. It was here that Newsflip made its home. Continue reading

23andMe’s mission: connecting all people on the DNA level or social networking XY.0

globalsimilarity and ancestry serviceIn these days, tech companies with MISSIONS are flourishing. I guess you’ve already heard about the company, whose mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The newly launched, Mountain View based 23andMe seems similar in the mission respect. 23andMe is the first (already successful) and web (or rather Google) – based biotech company offering personalized genome service to its customers including interpreted and highly probabilistic information on the health risks of the customer’s genetic profile. But 23andMe has much more to offer in these early days and I think that mainly the biggest mission behind the company will be to show how different people are irreversibly connected and similar through their genetic material and variants. The company’s Global Similarity Map based on the comparison of the evaluated SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) variants amongst customers and the Ancestry Service based on the by and large maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. They will make this mission more explicit by introducing a social networking service around shared genotypes or as it claimed in the Wired article on 23andMe:
This is also where a novel use of social-networking tools comes in. Wojcicki envisions groups of customers coming together around shared genotypes and SNPs, comparing notes about their conditions or backgrounds and identifying areas for further scientific research on their own. “It’s a great way for individuals to be involved in the research world,” Wojcicki says. “You’ll have a profile, and something almost like a ribbon marking participation in these different research papers. It’ll be like, How many Nature articles have you been part of?'” (Social networking will be included in version 2.0 in a matter of months, Avey says.)

The idea of social networking based on genetic similarities and vulnerabilities: this is social networking XY.0 and the challenge Continue reading

The new faces of Silicon Valley: biotech-savvy co-founders Avey-Wojcicki

avey-wojcickiAfter Jobs-Wozniak, Yang-Filo, Brin-Page, it’s time to memorize the names of the co-founders of 23andMe, the first personalized genome service, who are turning the tech establishment into a biotech mode.

The new faces of Silicon Valley: the age of Blue Jeans/Black T-Shirt co-founder computer nerds is over, welcome to the era of stylish, well-dressed genetics-savvy co-founder business ladies! According to the about page of 23andMe:

Linda Avey has over 20 years of sales and business development experience in the biopharmaceutical industry while the other founder, Anne Wojcicki brings to 23andMe a 10-year background in healthcare investing, focused primarily on biotechnology companies.

23andMe is probably the most well-connected startup in the history of Silicon Valley with an unlimited amount of networking and server capabilities thanks to Wojcicki and board member Esther Dyson.

Feed reading trends: I am a Valleywag addict, help me!

FeedreadingtrendsShow me your feed reading habits and I’ll tell you who you are! I hope this statement is not true as according the item reading trends on Google Reader I have been a serious Valleywag addict in the last 30 days and more, I suspect. Although extensively reading a funny, well-informed but malicious tech gossip site like Valleywag of the Gawker Empire admits no excuse my explanation is this: after 10-12 hours of experimental lab work I do need something light and ridiculous for mental regeneration at home before switching to more serious content. I want to laugh and for some reason Valleywag is tuned to the frequency I need for entertainment (and also gives me the option to instantaneously present the posts to my wife disturbing her web time). If my click path is a body with different physiological functions, then Valleywag is my Continue reading

Craig Venter and Tim O’Reilly chat: when 2 worlds meet

Biotech is the next infotech (or at least the 2 worlds need to be merged) and it is good to detect the signs of the growing biotech interest on part of the general tech crowd. At the Web 2.0 summit (organised by and for the Silicon Valley tech-media establishment) Tim O’ Reilly asked Craig Just Sequenced Venter. I suggest everyone watching the video below. It was not a terrific dialogue though as we’ve seen 2 people with a very different background talking about Venter’s discipline. I loved to hear the words ‘SNPs’ or ‘mitochondria ‘coming from Venter’s mouth in front of the biotechnologically still illiterate IT and web technology elite (my assumption, not tested statistically).

The other remarkable thing was Venter’s doubts regarding the current commercialized genetics service that personalized medicine and bioweb startups like 23andMe Continue reading

Microfluidics at SciFoo, 2007: packing cells into bubbles

Microfluidics deals with the behavior, precise control and manipulation of microliter and nanoliter volumes of fluids.
Manu Prakash
, grad student from the M.I.T.’s Center for Bits and Atoms had a 100% presentation on microfluidics at the SciFoo Camp, 2007. The small audience (I remember Jeff Hawkins and Lincoln Stein amongst others) was really amazed by the happenings in the microbubble world.

For me the most interesting part of the presentation was on the biological applications in the pipeline, one of them is the option of packing one cell into one bubble, thereby producing a one cell delivery system and a cell counting method.

SciFooPrakash

Related link: Microfluidics: Like Computer Chips With Plumbing

SciFoo Camp, 2007: data (Google) publishing (Nature) geeks (O’Reilly)

SciFoo is over, and I’ve just arrived back to New Orleans from SF. First of all: a big thanks for the organizers (Chris DiBona, Timo Hannay, Tim O’Reilly, Google, Nature, O’Reilly) and campers, it was really the highest end. Here is a quick SciFoo key terms summary (photos, detailed accounts later):

“scientific data”

One of the most frequently used key term was “scientific data”. And the question is: how to collect, upload, organize and index them. With the exponentially increasing data sets, that are produced by scientists worldwide, it is obvious that we need really powerful tools to benefit them. After a couple of beta years it is highly probable that Google (according to its mission statement) will offer new ways to manage the enormous amount of valuable scientific data. Without that, the efficiency of the science industry will dramatically decline.

“science publishing”

Yes, the old question ranging from open access science to different pre- and post publishing opportunities, addressing peer-review tools. A new and clear vocabulary is needed. Nature people were honest about the problems, asking for the optimal solutions.

“the geek factor”

Mainstream scientists are rather conservative folks, they can easily have revolutionary thoughts in their niche research fields, but are not too open minded and experimental when it is about new web and technology tools. The alpha geeks from the O’Reilly Media reminded the science population of the SciFoo (not the typical technology neutral mainstream scientists) that there are many innovative things that could be done in and out of science too. (You don’t necessarily need the newest Mac gadgets for that, just try out some mind performance hacks)

Google’s Larry Page at the AAAS meeting: entrepreneurship and unlocking in science

larrypage aaasLarry Page, Google co-founder, gave a talk at the Annual Meeting of American Association of the Advancement of Science, on 16 February. You can also watch the lecture on video if you download it in ram format. Page has not quite finished his PhD on Computer Science in Stanford yet, so he is a rookie scientist in a way besides being a mature entrepreneur. Larry’s core claim was, that “Science has a really serious marketing problem and nobody pays attention to that since none of the marketers work for science. If all the growth in world is due to science and technology and no one pays attention to you, then you have a serious marketing problem.” That’s why, he highlighted, entrepreneurship is necessary for science, and “You need to have the right attitude about it, and you need to think that business and entrepreneurship are important parts of science.” When, at the age of 6, he read the autobiography of Tesla, he cried at the end because it basically is a failure, he couldn’t fund his research, and was struggling hard to commercialize that stuff. He decided, he doesn’t want to be like Tesla, he wants a real impact, and for that the scientist needs integration with business, engineering and other areas. So Larry doesn’t really separate science and engineering, and he is absolutely right. If we, scientists really want our scientific work out there, and would like people to understand it there should be some mix between the activities. In Larry’s case it was obvious, since according to him “there is no computer science, it is just computer engineering and computer engineering is something else.”
He highlighted the early history of Silicon Valley, when in 1939, David Packard and William Hewlett established their firm in Packard’s garage with an initial capital investment of $538.

On the other hand scientific thinking hugely benefits most jobs. So at Google they try to hire a lot of scientific and tech oriented people even in positions they wouldn’t normally be on.

Additionally, scientists are really great citizens in Larry’s opinion, and he wants to have people in power, who understands things. His example was Abdul Kalam, the president of India, a rocket scientist by profession, who also apparently knows much about how Indian languages are encoded for web-display. This idea reminds me a little bit of Platon’s argument on the philosopher kings of city-states in Book VII of The Republic. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee, that an excellent scientist, who is a very smart man by definition, will naturally become a good politician. Continue reading

Valley Brats in Rolling Stone’s Tech Issue: trends in journalism (weekend off)

rollingwiredrossAnd now for something completely different! Sometimes life is just simply life for me without any extension. This is Life.exe. So at the weekends during the largely dead webtimes, I’ll blog about other things than stem cells, regenerative medicine, maximum life extension and biotech. This week offstory is a report, which shows the transformation of the now mainstream, once countercultural Rolling Stone magazine into a Wired-type Zeitgeist patterned techweb conglomerate. I bought the 16th November issue because it seemed like a Wired magazine by cover and content too: (inversely, look at the december Wired cover: it is Rolling Stone-like):

- coverboys and story are not the usual nice bodymaniac popceleb men&women but Colbert&Stewart

- blogs of musicians,

- long report on a radical idea by a planetary engineer to stop global warming,

- a big article with the title: The Baby Billionaires of Silicon Valley.

That is about the Valley Brats, the hidden power clique of under 30 übergeeks in the Bay Area, like Firefox main creator Blake Ross, Continue reading

First full-time biotech employee at Google BioLabs

googattcopyHello everybody, let me introduce myself: I am the first full-time biotechnologist at Google Inc. (well, not really). My job at Google is fascinating: I have to plan and build a comprehensive regenerative database/map of the complete human body which will be the input of the ultimate human regenerative software. It is so, because in the long run, Google Regeneration Clinic will open its doors to offer a continuous regeneration treatment for its patients, aka partial immortalization or pimm. No surprise, that my nickname here at G is: the Pimmer. The aim of regenerative medicine is to regenerate all tissues and organs of the human body with the help of stem cells’ regenerative potential. Theoretically, if all tissues and organs of an adult body were regenerated once, then it could be regenerated two and eventually n times. This technological possibility is called partial immortalization.

Even my bosses do not really understand how the continuous regeneration treatment will work, but they placed their confidence in me. Although not being biotechnologists, they caught the brand-new concept of regenerative medicine, the science and technology built around stem cells’ regenerative capacity: the aim here is to facilitate and amplify or simply replace the native regenerative potential of the organism, the targeted tissue or organ. Regmed does not care about the causes and the detailed effects of the injury, but about the replacement, and the renewal of the damaged function.
So I have the tremendous opportunity to build Google BioLabs and thanks to the cooperation with California Institute of Regenerative Medicine our new experimental lab is about to open. What we need: smart geek biotechers, engineers and 20 years of masturbatory intensity of concentration (the words of Michael Chabon) to fulfill the task. What we already have: the money, the most innovative corporate environment and the lifetime commitment.
Questions for the would-be Google BioLabs members
(but I promise there won’t be 7 interviews for 14 hours with 28 Googlers):

1st With an ordinary FACS machine, how long does it take to count 10-100 trillion cells which is the order of magnitude of the human body?
2nd: Delineate a non-invasive method capable of counting so many cells within a day.
3rd Design the algorithm of the consecutive order of complete tissue and organ regeneration.

PayPal founder’s $3.5 million support goes for life extension purposes

From SFGate: Peter A. Thiel, co-founder and former chief executive officer of the online payments system PayPal, announced Saturday he is pledging $3.5 million “to support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging.”
The grant goes to the Methuselah Foundation a nonprofit volunteer organization founded by Aubrey de Grey, whose SENS is an engineering proposal to fix ageing-related problems and reach indefinite healthy lifespan. Of course, this amount of money is not enough to solve the problem, just compare it to the $3 billion of Proposition 71 for stem cell research funding in California, where the annual limit is $350 million. Proposition 71 provides General Fund loan up to $3 million for Institute’s initial administration/implementation costs. But the $3.5 million comes from one wealthy man, and the 3 billion comes from a very wealthy state.

The grant marks well Bay Area IT entrepreneurs’s and venture capitalists’ growing interest in biotechnology and bioengineering. Take a look at a previous post here: Google’s coming out in biotech: when and why? IT entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley will be the eventual financial engine behind maximum life extension. They’ve got the money and the desire. Would you like to bet? IT money in BT business: sounds like the pattern of the future. Consider Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Genentech, the most successful biotech company in the U.S., who serves on the corporate boards of Apple Computer and Google. Congratulations for the grant, I hope that valuable experiments will be backed by that. With stem cells too.
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