Futures in Biotech

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Futures in Biotech (also known as FiB) is a show on the TWiT network that debuted on June 14, 2006. Hosted by Marc Pelletier, FiB covers the emerging field of biotechnology, but sometimes journeys into other disciplines. FiB has featured such renowned scientists as Susan Lindquist, Leonard Guarente, Larry Smarr, George Church, Lee Hood, Michio Kaku, Nobel Laureates Eric Kandel (2000),Mario Capecchi (2007), Oliver Smithies (2007), and Marty Chalfie (2008), two moonwalkers, Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) and Senator Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17), and even the Chief Engineer of the Command Module from the Apollo, Mike Vucelic (Presidential Medal of Freedom winner for saving the lives of Apollo 13).

This show was retired on the TWiT network in July 2012. Marc plans to continue producing shows over at Vincent Racaniello’s TWiV network. Keep up with his plans on Twitter: @marcpelletier



This show explores the rapidly changing world of biotech, with a penchant towards getting a better understanding of who we are and where we are going. The living world will soon be a true substrate for engineering. Our world will change, and so will we.

FiB brings a first hand account from the scientists that are moving us into this new technological era - the era of biotech.

Recent Episodes

Recent episodes can be viewed and downloaded here

Show notes

Below are detailed show notes for released episodes. These are updated as soon as possible as time allows and/or as much community effort is put into them.

Additional show notes for Futures in Biotech can be found here.


  • Dr. David Haussler, FiB Episode 53

""We do paleo-computational genomics: our software effort over the last five years or so is focused on taking the genomes that we are sequencing from all of the species that are living on the planet today and working backwards towards what the genomes of their ancestors must of looked like. It's a tremendous opportunity. One way to think about this is the genomes that we see today are like having noisy copies of an ancient text. Imagine that you had this ancient text, and there were pages missing in a few copies, and other copies had smudges and letters changed, or maybe it was copied by hand and the copies were made that had errors in them. If you just had one decedent, one copy from this ancient text, it would be very hard to reconstruct the way the text looked like because of all the changes. But if you made dozens of independent copies of them, such that it's unlikely that the same change was made multiple times in the same place, then you can reconstruct from those copies what the ancient text must have looked like. So for this, the genome of our common ancestor of placental mammals for example, a creature that lived in the late Cretaceous period, about a 100 million years ago, in the shadow of the dinosaurs. That genome is something that we can get a very good picture of by taking all of the placental mammals that are alive today and working back from their genomes to what must of been that common ancestral genome, and we do that computationally."

  • Dr. John Gabrieli, FiB Episode 44

"In fact sometimes when you think about say what does it take in the brain to read aloud a single word? I mean that’s a pretty simple thing once you’ve passed first grade. But you have to have your visual system do amazing tricks to identify the characters in the word; you know that no animal can do as far as we know on the planet. You have to have your entire language system, the sounds of language, the meaning of language, your entire system that moves your mouth into action. I mean just to read aloud a single word, vision, language, motor control systems that move your body and your mouth, I mean that’s a huge system to simply read aloud a single word"

  • Dr. Dave Brodbeck, FiB Episode 43

So, back your head, occipital lobe does all of this visual analysis. And it’s pretty well understood, as I said, how it works. So what this group I think in Japan did is they had people in fMRI and they presented them with stimuli. And they’re just 10 by 10, so it’s 100 squares. So it’s 100 pixels, right. And they’re showing them the letters N E U R O N, excellent. And they were then able to, by looking at the patterns on the fMRI, able to read what people were seeing.

Now the image is fuzzy. But of course, it’s going to get less and less fuzzy as time goes on. And I mean, first of all the fascinating thing there is that it does show that we understand pretty well how V1 to V5 work, how the visual cortex works. But it also shows – I mean it’s mentioned in the article – well it’s in the popular science sort of articles not in the paper in the journal Neuron, how you might be able to watch someone dream.' "'"

  • Dr. Vincent Racaniello, FiB Episode 43

"First of all, 90% of all the genes that you find in the viruses in the ocean are brand new. You can’t find them in GenBank. If you try and search for them you don’t find anything that resembles them. So there could be amazing new proteins for example, that we could use some data to do things, enzymes or therapeutic uses, structural uses, who knows? So it’s incredible. We thought we knew a lot of biome of the world, if you will, but ocean is just incredible. "'"

  • Dr. Peter Palese, FiB Episode 40

"if you blow up a virus, let’s say, to the size of a fist, then the cell – and obviously it depends on the virus and depends on the cell – but the virus then may have – I am sorry, the virus which has the size of a fist may infect a cell which is half the Empire State Building. So, it’s really a tremendous size difference between a virus and a cell. And again depending on how big the virus is; some are smaller, some are bigger. But that sort of shows that within – one virus particle infecting half the Empire State Building, may within eight hours, basically change the entire machinery of the Empire State Building and basically kill it within eight hours and produce 100,000 or 1 million new virus particles in that very brief period of time of eight hours."'"

  • Dr. Martin Chalfie, Nobel Laureate, FiB Episode 38

"Actually, my favorite use of GFP in – not real use of GFP, but it turns out that there was a student apparently on the set of the movie The Hulk that Ang Lee brought out several years ago, and told him about GFP. He was interested in jellyfish among other reasons. And if you look at the opening credits to The Hulk, Ang Lee’s The Hulk, what you see is a jellyfish and a hypodermic cell going into the jellyfish and seeming to pull out a green fluorescent solution from the jelly fish. If it could only have been that easy to do the experiment. And a notebook that then says, in 1965, green bioluminescence. And the implication is that The Hulk is green because he’s the first GFP transgenic human. And I thought it was a wonderful thing that to see in a movie."

  • Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, FiB Episode 36

"So we set out to look for long-lived mutants and we found that – we found mutations that affected one particular gene, that had the name daf-2, that actually doubled the lifespan of the animal, which was really amazing. It was much – no one thought that was possible. It was – the whole fact that it was possible to take a multi-cellular animal, with a nervous system and muscles and intestine - everything that we have, well not – I mean – can’t do arithmetic, but I mean they are real little animals. And you can change one gene and dramatically slow down the rate of aging. Keep the animals dancing around while the normal worms are in the nursing home, really."

  • Dr. Justin Sanchez, FiB Episode 35

My vision for the future is to implant one of these devices into the brain – you would have a microchip, a fully self-contained rechargeable type of microchip that has a wireless telemetry on it, and you would implant it underneath the scalp and through the skull and directly into the brain tissue and you would leave it there and you would want it to work for 10s of years. We are actually working on one of these devices right now."

  • Dr. Mark Gerstein, FiB Episode 34

"I think the really interesting thing about it [the human genome] is not only does it actually carry a blueprint for who we are and describes how to make a person, but it also has within it the history of how human beings came to be. And so it has the molecular history of all our genes..."

  • Dr. Brenda Milner, pioneer and founder of the field of cognitive neuroscience, FiB Episode 33

"So one part of his brain had been learning, acquiring this skill, and the other part – whereas the rest of him, HM, was not even retaining the memory of the experience, an amazing dissociation.That was a very – this is banal now, everybody knows this, but it was so exciting the first time to see it. Some early evidence of multiple memory systems in the brain..."

  • Dr. Ron Collman, FiB Episode 32

"And so this dance between retroviruses constantly bombarding animals, people, and the cells’ efforts to defend against this incoming bombardment, is one of the most powerful forces shaping modern evolution."

  • Dr. Michio Kaku, FiB Episode 31

"Now, to teleport Captain Kirk is more difficult; he consists of 50 trillion cells – that’s a lot of cells. So Captain Kirk can be more difficult to teleport, may take a few centuries, but Star Trek takes place in the 23rd century, so we have plenty of time."

  • Dr. Vijay Pande, FiB Episode 27

"Imagine the analogy of what it would be like if people designed bridges the way they [currently] design drugs. They would have some idea for a bridge but they really wouldn't know whether the bridge would work or not. So you send rats across the bridge or something like that to see if they survive."

  • Dr. George Church, FiB Episode 25

"It may turn out that it's easier to detect DNA than it is to detect organic molecules [on Mars], because ... there's an exquisite sensitivity to PCR."


External links