Tagged: biotech

What Is Bio Strategy?

TL;DR. Bio strategy is a framework to incorporate biology, biotechnology into your business.

“At the dawn of the 21st Century, strategy seems to have gone out of fashion.” – Chet Holmes, Certain to Win

The word “strategy” has become so overused that most people have forgotten what strategy really means.

John Cumbers and I were inspired to write What’s Your Bio Strategy? because it was clear that few businesses understood the impact that biology was having – even among those who could benefit from the technologies. After all, the phrase “knowledge is power,” is commonly attributed to Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method and visionary for the first scientific institution, the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.

So before we define bio strategy, let’s review the definitions of strategy.

Strategy defines your destination, not the road to get there.

Strategy is a guiding framework.

Strategy, according to Kenichi Ohmrae of McKinsey’s Toyko office, “isn’t about beating the competition. It’s serving customers’ real needs.

Harvard Business School professor Gary Pisano says,

“Strategy is nothing more than a commitment to a set of coherent, mutually reinforcing policies aimed at achieving a specific competitive goal. Good strategies promote alignment among diverse groups in an organization, clarify objectives and priorities, and help focus efforts around them.”

Martin Reeves, the managing director of Boston Consulting Group’s New York office and author of Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, suggests, all companies are identical to biological species in that both are complex adaptive systems. Therefore, the strategies that confer the ability to survive and thrive under rapidly changing conditions, whether natural or manmade, are directly applicable to business.

Bio strategy is a framework for incorporating biology into your business.

It is a plan to incorporate biology into your company’s existing mission, vision, and goals.

To find out more about What’s Your Bio Strategy? subscribe here.

How to Create 10,000 Jobs?

How do you create 10,000 jobs?

Train 500 brewers.

Originally, I was going to write:

Train 10,000 teachers.

Without teachers, you can't create jobs.
The US of A need teachers.

Despite the overwhelming need for teachers [1], the profession currently is looked down upon in the United States and people don’t understand that if you don’t invest in education, you’re not investing in the future. (Cynically, I understand the reason the United States doesn’t emphasize education more is that an educated populace is harder to control *cough* I mean, govern.)

I was also going to write:

Train 10,000 farmers.

Winslow Homer's painting harkens back to a hallowed time
Winslow Homer’s The Veteran in the Field shows something we desperately need – farmers.

It might not sound like a sexy profession, but it is a growth industry and will be for some time. By 2050, we’ll need to feed a planet of 9 billion people. And we’ll need to do it in the face of severe climate change and water shortages.

The American farmer is on average 58 years old.

This is of concern because no matter how much automation, robotics, and big data impact farming, you still need people to run those farms. Food security is an issue

So, I looked at the question a bit differently:

What would be the minimum number of people we could train to have a massive impact on jobs now and in the future?

[Digression: When we talk about creating jobs, we’re talking about creating employees. Others have pointed out, no employers wants to hire employees. Plus, most people hate their jobs. This is a big part of the issue with current job growth models. So, instead of talking about creating jobs, let’s talk about creating entrepreneurs and business owners. Luckily, this is something that Americans excel at.]

So in thinking about the answer, I thought about sectors that are currently experiencing high-growth and create value with fewer people.

Right now, biotechnology makes up nearly 3 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. It contributes more to the US GDP than mining and utilities – and almost as much as construction.

Over the past decade, biotech grew on average more than 10 percent per year, much faster than the rest of the economy. Biotech also requires fewer people to create significant value.

If you can imagine a small team developing a valuable medicine, an industrial enzyme, or a modification to a plant – all of those are potentially worth billions of dollars.

For most people, biotech is scary [2] but brewing beer is not.

Brewing is biotechnology…

distilled to its simplest form (and yeah, I did intend that pun). Fermentation is the oldest form of biotechnology and we’ve been doing it for 9,000 years

Back in the day, brewing was a respectable profession.
Brewing in the Middle Ages

A brewer takes ingredients that have little value separately – water, grain, and hops – and creates something of value. (That sounds a lot like pulling money out of thin air, which is what good entrepreneurs do.)

Over the past few years, microbreweries have exploded. In Brooklyn where I live, I’m surrounded by three – Brooklyn Brewery, Other Half and Sixpoint. New York City counts more than 30 breweries.

Americans live, on average, less than 10 miles from a microbrewery
Image source: beerandwhiskeybros.com

I can’t find the stat, but I’ve read that all Americans now live within ten miles of a microbrewery.

What are the trickle down effects?

A microbrewery employs at least a few people. They have to buy the grain and hops which someone has to grow and process that requires more people, some farmers.

New York State once was the leading producer of hops. Now it's Oregon and Washington.
Hops growing on Long Island

For example, New York state used to be the epicenter of U.S. hop production. The industry, destroyed by mildew-related disease and Prohibition, moved West. But now, the New York hops industry is re-emerging. (It’ll take a while to make a dent in the industry, NY grow only 300 acres, while Oregon and Washington State are growing some 400,000 acres of commercial hops). The microbrew boom is driving the farming of hops.

But doesn’t that mean the market is saturated?

I don’t know much about the specific outlook for breweries but since it involved biotechnology, making the jump from brewing to fermentation would be a small leap. The next leap would be to distributed biological manufacturing.

Back in 2001, Rob Carlson described distributed biological manufacturing as means of producing many of the things we used today. That means people who are trained as brewers can easily learn to brew items that are potentially of much greater value than beer.

Adidas Futurecraft is made of spider silk and is completely bio-degradable.
Adidas is the first shoe company to use completely sustainable, vegan, super-strong spider silk.

For example, Bolt Threads is one of three synthetic biology companies that has genetically engineered yeast to produce spider silk – one of the strongest materials created by nature. That silk can be used to produce jackets, shoes, and bulletproof vests. And those are only a few of its uses.

In 2015, Stanford researcher Christina Smolke made the news for engineering yeast to produce opioids. Today, it takes one year to produce hydrocodone from poppies that are legally grown in Tasmania. At the time there was some debate as to whether such technology would be abused, say by drug cartels. The bigger debate should probably have been how do you give access to people who have no access to painkillers. Smolke and her team started a company, Antheia, whose mission is to make and fairly provide medicines to all who need them.

It’s not a stretch to imagine brewers being able to produce very high value products very easily.

So, if you want to have a massive impact on the economy, train 500 brewers.

[1] I am happily married to a public school art teacher and come from a family of educators.

Update: Right after I posted this, Forbes ran an article which projected cannabis industry jobs would surpass traditional manufacturing jobs by 2020. Update 2: A month later, Fortune ran a story claiming the future of food would look a lot like brewing beer.

[Thanks to Johnny Bohimer and John Cumbers for their contributions and advice on this.]

How To Clone a Dragon 1 | Can We Ever Bioengineer Dragons?

Game of Thrones Doesn't Show How to Clone Dragons. They Just Are.
The Great Game of Thrones Dragons. There are no clones in fantasy stories.

So you want to clone a dragon?

Before you can clone anything you have to have a copy to work from and because dragons do not yet exist, you’re going to have to bio-engineer one first.

But before you start the biological design process that will result in your dragon, you need to remember this complex living organism does not exist in nature. And we’re just at the very beginning of accurately engineering microorganisms. We’re not yet experienced enough to engineer a reptile though I suspect the genome editing tool CRISPR will get us closer, UBER for cross-species genetic engineering even closer.

You’ll need to decide what traits you want: big or small? Wild or docile? Winged? Then there’s the whole fire-breathing thing.

Nothing in nature breathes fire and fire destroys. Your Dragon Clone will need to be fire resistant.

Living organisms that are fire-resistant don’t exist. The most extreme extremophiles, half-millimeter-long nematodes that live beneath the mines of South Africa, are only heat and pressure tolerant.  The most heat-tolerant complex animal known to man, the four-inch long Pompeii worm clings around the smokers of the hydrothermal vents of the Pacific Ocean mountain ranges. It can tolerate hot waters at a temperature of 80°C.

To create a creature that not only breathes fire without damaging itself will take some substantial-bioengineering. Surprisingly though, DNA itself is a natural flame retardant and suppressant. Maybe there are lessons from the Pompeii worm and DNA’s flame retardant abilities that you can use to line the throat and nostrils, coat the tongue of your little bio-engineered dragon.

What about creating a flame? Again, nothing in nature breathes fire.

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