I’m excited to offer the first episode of DISRUPTIVE, my new monthly podcast series produced with Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The mission of the Wyss Institute is to: Transform healthcare, industry, and the environment by emulating the way nature builds, with a focus on technology development and its translation into products and therapies that will have an impact on the world in which we live. Their work is disruptive not only in terms of science but also in how they stretch the usual boundaries of academia.
In this inaugural episode, Wyss core faculty members Pamela Silver and George Church explain how, with today’s technology breakthroughs, modifications to an organism’s genome can be conducted more cheaply, efficiently, and effectively than ever before. Researchers are programming microbes to treat wastewater, generate electricity, manufacture jet fuel, create hemoglobin, and fabricate new drugs. What sounds like science fiction to most of us might be a reality in our lifetimes: the ability to build diagnostic tools that live within our bodies, find ways to eradicate malaria from mosquito lines, or possibly even make genetic improvements in humans that are passed down to future generations. Silver and Church discuss both the high-impact benefits of their work as well as their commitment to the prevention of unintended consequences in this new age of genetic engineering.
Originally Aired: November 2013
After 3.8 billion years of R&D on this planet, failures are fossils. What surrounds us in the natural world has succeeded and survived. So why not learn as much as we can from what works? JAY HARMON translates nature’s lessons into technologies that solve problems and perform tasks more elegantly, efficiently, and economically.
JAY HARMAN has founded and grown multi-million-dollar research and manufacturing companies that develop, patent, and license innovative products, ranging from prize-winning watercraft to interlocking building bricks, afterburners for aircraft engines, and non-invasive technology for measuring blood glucose and other electrolytes. His latest ventures – PAX Scientific, PAX Water Technologies, PAX Mixer, and PAX Streamline – design more efficient industrial equipment including turbines, fans, and pumps. He’s the author of THE SHARK’S PAINTBRUSH: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation.
Welcome to DISRUPTIVE the podcast from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
In this episode of DISRUPTIVE, we will focus on a cancer vaccine and hydrogel drug depots – both being developed by Wyss Founding Core Faculty Member, DAVE MOONEY. Mooney says the human immune system is the most efficient weapon on the planet to fight disease. Cancer, however, resists treatment and cure by evading the immune system. Unlike bacterial cells or viruses, cancer cells belong in the body, but are simply mutated and misplaced. Scientists have been trying to develop vaccines that provoke the immune system to recognize cancer cells as foreign and attack them. The approach developed by Mooney’s group, in which they reprogram immune cells from inside the body using implantable biomaterials, appears simpler and more effective than other cancer vaccines currently in clinical trials. In one study, 50% of mice treated with two doses of the vaccine — mice that would have otherwise died from melanoma within about 25 days — showed complete tumor regression. On a second front, when it comes to delivering drugs or protein-based therapeutics, doctors often give patients pills or inject the drug into their bloodstream. Both are inefficient methods for delivering effective doses to targeted tissues. Mooney and his team at Wyss are taking a new approach using biocompatible and biodegradable hydrogels. They’ve developed a gel-based sponge that can be molded to any shape, loaded with drugs or stem cells, compressed to a fraction of its size, and delivered via injection. Once inside the body, it pops back to its original shape, gradually releases its payload, and safely degrades. After we explore both of these exciting projects with Mooney, we take a closer look at the process of translation of hydrogel technology into products and therapies with Chris Gemmiti, a business development lead at Wyss.
On November 15, InsightLA, the leading Los Angeles-based Mindfulness Meditation organization, will host LIVING WITH A JOYFUL SPIRIT AND A WISE HEART, a day of deep teachings and timeless wisdom that will feature Trudy Goodman and Jack Cornfield in dialogue via video with a “who’s who” of the pioneers of mindfulness meditation in the West – Jon Kabat-Zinn (Wherever You Go, There You Are), Ram Dass (Be Here Now), Tara Brach (Radical Acceptance), Joseph Goldstein (Insight Meditatino), and Congressman Tim Ryan (A Mindful Nation). Both Trudy and Jack turn 70 this year. In the course of the conversation, we talk about their personal paths, what each of their guests means to them, and we tell the story of mindfulness in America over the last forty-five years.
Trudy Goodman has trained and practiced in two fields for over 25 years: meditation and psychotherapy. She studied developmental psychology with Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Carol Gilligan, and for 20 years worked in a full psychotherapy practice. Since 1974, Trudy has devoted much of her life to practicing Buddhist meditation and teaching mindfulness. In 2002, Trudy founded InsightLA.
Jack Kornfield is a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and founding teacher of the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. His books have been translated into 20 languages and sold more than a million copies. They include, A Path with Heart; After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; Buddha’s Little Instruction Book; and A Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.