Timing is perfect on this. We are fortunate enough to be witnessing Year One in the Age of Crispr ;)
For those brainstorming startup ideas some relatively recently funded companies include:
eGenesis - Dr. George Church's company that uses edited porcine stem lines for human xenotransplantation
Twist Bio - synthetic bio for applications ranging from novel materials to data storage
Denali - focus on age related neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Benchling - molecular bio and gene editing design software
Synthego - free gene knockout kits
But of all the breakthroughs last year. The one that may be most impactful. Editing human genes in the embryo to remove hereditary disease.
Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos
Awesome! We've been supporting start up bio companies by offering them a fair pricing on equipment, supplies and chemicals. I think we've sold to every YC bio company except Ginkgo (doh!).
There's a huge problem in non-transparent pricing for products. For those outside the industry it's like buying used cars, dealing with sales reps and everything is a quote. Researchers are at a huge informational disadvantage when it comes pricing.
Example, acetone which is a commonly used solvent:
$900 vs. $300
Another example, IPTG:
We commonly see 3-5x differences and up to 10x for the exact same item. This makes a huge difference when you're in the range of 500k to 1 mil from YC Bio.
The more investment and talent going into taking control of our biology and reducing disease, the better.
If using your tech skills to help battle disease in an ambitious way is interesting and you wanna learn about a new, quiet startup (top-tier funders, world-class bio folks already on board for you to partner with, rare advisors from tech/bio/pharma), ping me: firstname.lastname@example.org
We're hiring a couple more for our early team and specifically looking for data, infra, and ML engineers. No specific bio background required. Staying quiet for now, can share more when we talk.
Living healthier for longer will not help the healthcare crisis if the tail-end of life has the same health distribution. I think healthspan is a more important first target that lifespan.
It's great to see some targeted support for bio, though! It seems like a harder market division to get into than a pure tech company.
"...it could be one of the best ways to address our healthcare crisis."
It seems to me a great deal more people face a very different question, "how can I afford to live longer?"
This is such a great news. YC is focusing its efforts on areas of biggest change and need in the coming decade, and life sciences is really critical.
Here's a visualization I made of the top causes of death in the USA. We've got a lot of work to do! Fortunately, the mechanisms of aging underlie many of these illnesses.
as a former biologist:
please, please, please, please, please, please, please ensure that at YC the people with money do not try to interpret laboratory data and stay far away from making any kind of project-level decisions.
it's something they (VCs) love to do, in my experience. incorrectly. and it's a massive waste of scientists' time, to have to correct the moneymen's misunderstandings of rudimentary things. then it's a cringe session when you hear them trying to explain it to other moneymen. then it's a big tearjerker when the moneymen's childlike expectations aren't met, and the company suffers.
something about biotech VCs and business types makes them think that they understand their products and products-in-development even if they're unqualified. the reality is that the depths of their ignorance are very embarrassing.
but i digress. i hate to rain on the parade here, but my bet is that most of the early stage biopharmas at YC will fail due to one of two reasons:
1. nature isn't working in the way they need it to.
2. the people with money don't stay out of the way enough and make stupid decisions that they don't understand.
i've seen a few biotechs fail to reason 1-- always tragic, but nature always has another trick that mankind will figure out some other day.
i've also seen a few fail to reason 2. it's very predictable, and saddening every time. non-technical types in leadership positions need to stay far away from biotech, especially at an early stage... they ruin things by cutting funding at the wrong time; they ruin things by forcing idiotic focuses; and they ruin things by believing that manipulating nature is similar to making a faster horse.
i have plenty of ideas on how to make biotech startups work better when they receive funding, however. they are, shall we say, politically incorrect-- both to the society of the scientists as well as the society of the VCs. perhaps i will share them on some other evening.
Looks like a great opportunity from YC and a field I wish I knew more about - especially implantable tech and wetware/biohacking.
In the embedded/IoT industry, the majority of medical device innovation is centered around home monitoring/care for older patients in nursing homes, or for preventative/medicine.
Can anyone with experience in the bio/chem/pharma startup world point to good resources where we can get up to date on the most exciting/promising new bio tech/startups of the past 20 years or so? Also related - has anything come out of Alphabet Calico ?
There needs to be more of a narrowing of the gap between biology and tech. I feel like right now the giants in both fields are still very much experts of their own biology or technology domains.
The perspective one takes on the biological system in question is vastly different depending on where you are coming from. Biologist understands bigger picture ideas about the system and can narrow down potential solutions. Tech injects more rigor and organization into how data is collected and analyzed. The skills are very complementary.
I am optimistic because I am seeing more people coming up in the field who are trying to do both molecular biology and data science.
Do you have to move to the Bay Area?
I'm a professor at WashU and am interested, but I live in St. Louis.
Has YC had successful Biology startups with real exits? Just curious I couldn't find any.
Much of what we learn in biology comes from happy accidents. Targeted research for financial gain is very, very difficult. Moreover, much of what we need to learn will come observing biologic mechanisms that have evolved over eons in life in places like the rain forests of Brazil that are being destroyed with all the knowledge and medicines that can be developed from the research of the species that live there. Sadly, your interest is money but for the human race investing in protecting rain forests as a whole would be a greater investment.
Is this going to expand the funding that goes to the SENS program? There's a lot of basic Science that is yet to be done, and it appears (from Aubrey de Grey's talks) that a lot of it is still rather underfunded. See this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6ARUQ5LoUo
How is enabling people to live longer going to address a healthcare crisis that is primarily about the cost of care? If people live longer they are going to end up paying more for care, especially for whatever treatment any of these companies comes up with that enables them to live longer.
Curious how the healthcare industry will try to monetize fasting i.e. this free, unlimited thing that anyone can do that has proven time and time again to not only increase lifespan but increase the number of healthy years in the last years of life.
I wish I could somehow make sense of my both biological and software proficiencies, and I try to follow what's happening in the Biotech world, but nowhere do I feel like an ideal fit. So I enjoy doing both separately for the moment !
there has been an amazing amount of innovation in bio the last 5 years, but the biggest bottleneck to making more progress is lack of seed funding and shortage of entrepreneurs. So this is great to see
I wrote about the opportunity in bio earlier this week and run a program connecting top tier scientists with life sci VCs. If you are interested in bio and don't have a science background, this is the best time ever to get involved: http://newbio.tech/blog.html
I am cheering for you guys, but.... I fear YC is moving way out of its center of competence. Startup mantras like "build something people want" and "move fast and break things" are probably wildly inappropriate for the biotech world. Even the setup of the the YC course, where you hack intensely for three months and then present something cool at Demo Day, seems totally misconfigured for doing bio research.
Color me skeptical. I have a form of cystic fibrosis. I have gotten myself mostly well when that is not supposed to be possible. I was a homemaker for a long time. Eating right and germ control are a very large part of what I do and it isn't rocket science, as they say.
I also can see no means to turn it into a business model or income stream, nor even get anyone interested in benefiting from what I know for free. It isn't the magic bullet people are looking for. A spartan life, eating better and lots of walking is not an answer people want. It also isn't an answer that investors will fund.
Meanwhile, hey, lung transplants and $300k/year new drugs for CF are all the rage. That makes headlines and apparently makes money.
A business model for healthcare seems to produce Frankensteinian outcomes. Things that are actually health promoting, like having a full-time parent to care for the kids and primary breadwinner, eating right, exercise etc are boring and don't make VCs rich. They are actually quite challenging to promote at all.
I wish I saw it differently.
The Bitter Pill
The way I read it, they are saying "we know our resources are limited, and bio science is huge. And expensive. We don't presume to have all the answers. So we will focus on one small area at a time. First, we will achieve immortality. After all, all the breakthroughs in the next thousand years can't help your rotting bones. Barring violent accidemt (think nuclear explosion) there is no physical reason humans should have an end of life. Once we have achieved this, we will have a number of options about what to tackle next. We were frankly undecided between obesity and superintelligence. Solving one leaves you fit and attractive, after all, and AI will surpass human intelligence anyway. So why is our next bio focus after immortality on superintelligence, rather than obesity? Simple: having all the fitness answers in the world is no help if the subjects' dumb asses don't apply them. In fact, intelligence is more importance than fitness. If you're smart enough, you'll always apply the best techniques for fitness. On the other hand, if you're a dumbass, it doesn't matter how great the fitness solution is: you just won't apply it. So our focused, humble goals are, in order, immortality, superintelligence and making an adonis/aphrodite out of everyone." :D
Okay, now are you listening, founders? The above is actually not what I said it was about, but is actually what your game plan should be in the face of dumbass investors and a hostile world:
Step 1: become default-alive. Make your company immortal. Get a negative burn rate. Nobody can fail to roll sixes infinite times in a row. Even with loaded unfair dice. Become immortal. You are then guaranteed to win.
Step 2: become smarter. You will see your peers be dumbasses trying to focus on being attractive investment targets first. Ignore them. Investors aren't smart enough to invest in the most attractive business plans on the planet. So don't try to make an attractive business plan, instead, focus on a smarter product.
Step 3: when you have the smartest product and team in your industry, only then focus on being fit amd an attractive investment target.
Now you have all the tools you need to succeed. Good luck :)
p.s. sorry about hiding this bitter pill in what seemed like simple satire. My comment is totally off-topic and has nothing to do with YC Bio ;) It's pure 100% allegory all the way.
Biology and AI could possibly be the next coal face
Why focus on age-related disease when massive racial and economic disparities still prevent a large proportion of the population from even reaching an advanced age?