Hi everyone, my name is Andrew Hessel. There's my twitter account there. I am going to talk to you there called Pink Army Cooperative, it's a drug company for everyone. It's kind of been a mission for me to build this. My background is that I was a cellular biologist, and geneticist, worked for Big Pharma until they kinda sorta slow down. The whole genomics bubble was really good. But then we had to digest that, and it really takes, it takes a lot of time to go and make drugs. Man, we're so used to thinking it's going to take 10 or 15 years and a billion dollars. After this run of this company, I had some money, and some free time, I thought I was going to go look at these problems in a slightly different way. This is the result.

I have a strange take on biology. I didn't want to be a biologist, I wanted to be a computer programmer. I got into computers in the 1980s, and everything changed so fast, it was hard to keep up with it all. New languages, new hardware platforms, new software, I spent all my money trying to keep up. I thought that cells were kinda like computers too, they compute with chemicals, the operating system has been standardized for billions of years. There are comparisons between biology and computers. Put yourself down to the level of bacteria. You're a complex system. Microbes are a kind of simple computer, they have an operating system of about 4.6 megabits, they can do a surprising amount of biochemistry, and pretty robust and it's all there. Plus they duplicate which is really neat. This is a real quick slide about analogies between components and biology, circuits, pathways, modules, all the way up to a full computer and ultimately aggregations of computers, like our cells, networks of cells working together, it's all accessible through DNA. You can program it.

Reading and writing programs in this biological space translates into DNA sequencing and a new technology called synthetic biology- it's genetic engineering, but instead of a lab, you use printers. This is the old way of doing genetic engineering- it's complicated cooking, it's like doing cut and paste with words, you don't know if the scissors are working, you can't see the words, it's really really slow even to put together a paragraph let alone a novel. But when you have DNA printers, you can basically, if you can type, you can be a genetic engineer. Today there are gene printing companies like GeneArt, Blue Herring, and a dozen others, that will print DNA from 40 cents a base to 60 cents a base, the cost has been falling exponentially. Anyway, anyone can become a genetic engineer today, you still need a lab to boot it up and do anything useful. If you look far ahead, you can see that things are going to explode. I am co-chair for biotech at Singularity University. If everything is changing and doubling, where are we going for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?

I really want to see genomics become like a software industry. Design, compile which in the biological world is just printing DNA, execute and putting that into a cell, put this code in there, do something useful with it, something that I can test, and this is done in a lab, to produce new applications. This is a universal formula. It's increasingly true with biology, but this cycle for drugs has taken about 15 years, often longer. How do we accelerate it, how do we make this wheel go faster?

Well, I started working with this group of really passionate students in synthetic biology, called the iGEM competition at MIT. We took kids so young that they weren't already chipped in the head as to how to go out and do biology- most biologists take things apart, they don't think of building biology. That's different, that's true engineering, not reverse engineering. We took these kids, gave them tools, and gave them some little instructions. We used an open source model, they shared their data, and it accelerated really fast. There were about 25 countries, there was 110 teams, this is about 6 years into the whole effort, and some of the genetic engineering that they did was simply breathtaking, and they did it 4 months over the summer, with poultry amounts of money, we're talking from $5k to $50k and a lot of that was just for salaries, they did kickass work and they raised the bar every year. And I started watching this process grow, and right now they are doing it because it's fun, and it's really fun. It makes biology and genetic engineering fun, almost a team sport, this is like the Olympic games of synthetic biology. When do we get serious?

You've seen DIYbio, they are hacking hardware, you've seen presentations on drug discovery and collaboration etc., how do we go and do drug development collaborative? How do we do DIY biotech? This is not a toy tech. My first computer was a toy. This is not a toy tech, it's made the cover of some of the major journals, you can be playful with it, you can do all sorts of cool things, like bacteria smelling weird, making them turn colors, it's as powerful as anything in biotech 15 years ago, but even more powerful. There are dozens of companies, like Synthetic Genomics, they are just using this for biofuels, and this company, Craig Venter started it, and it's probably valued at over $1B already. There are other groups doing this and coming together, it's one of the most foundational technologies in life sciences. It's kind of like DNA sequencing and reading was 15 or 20 years ago. We're starting to see consultancies pop up, like Gingko Bioworks. We have the tools, the tech, we want a fee, what do you want to make? That's pretty cool. In the Bay Area, you're going to have the first BIOFAB, an integrated design-build-test roof, ran by some amazing academics, people who built this field, opening it up to the whole community that might not have all of the facilities in one roof, hey you have a good idea, let's go do it. It's a contract biology biotech company, and once they figure out how to do it, you're going to see some commercial groups step in and do the same thing for profit, and it's going to be competitive, it's going to be the Kinkos of biotech.

Now, some people are going to want to replace chemical processes with biochemical processes. Everyone is going to have a different idea. I want a working cure to cancer. It's just where I've spent most of my life. I don't have cancer, I'm willing to have it, but I don't. I've never been diagnosed with cancer. All of us have corruptions in our genetic material, it's just a part of booting up a computer, you're going to get errors on the disk, and a certain corruption will create a cell that happens to escape all of the immune detection and so on, and start to grow in your body. Boils, freckles and stuff, nothing serious enough to worry about yet. But all of us are going to get cancer if we live long enough. WE haven't made a lot of progress in this yet. But there are a few fascinating things. It's just a corruption. All cancers are caused by degradation of genetic material. You'll find populations of the same type of cancer, and when it destabilizes, it can get progressive pretty fast, and if it stays in a lump, you cut it out, no big deal. When it gets invasive, and spreads through the network, you have to go hunt and seek it to eliminate it.

We're learning, you know, we're getting fine resolution now. You had something growing off the side of your neck, and the doc would say nothing you can do about it, and we've had pathologists who can look at cancer cells; it's like reading someone's face and saying, it's good/bad, whatever. But now we're getting gene expression analysis, and really really high definition ways. But what do you do with all that data? What do you do with it? I've been saying for years that I think cancer R&D is kind of lost. It's generating all this data, but not finding a path to using it faster and cheaper. The knowledge cycle hasn't changed much. Cancer doesn't even really worry me, it's kind of slow growing. In the 1900s, if you got a bacterial infection, you were dead. A bad one, splott, you were gone. We didn't have antibiotics. We got penicillin and other antibiotics, and it wasn't a problem any more. This is kind of like cancer- rogue cells growing in your body and disrupting a critical system. There's a difference though- bacteria and you are separated by 4 billion years of distance. You can throw compounds at the bacteria and kill it, and your body will just not really care, it doesn't effect it. It's why we don't freak out about bacterial infections. But cancer is a different ball game. Like, cancer cells are really complex, you've heard this, you've seen the signaling pathways, they are complicated compared to bacteria. This is 4 billion years of evolutionary distance. But with cancer- each cancer is unique, it's a product of your own cells, it's one of your own cells or more that has escaped the program, and it's starting to evolve inside of you, and it's going to kill you if it keeps going. The evolutionary distance between the cell and your cancer age or something is maximum your age (not 4 billion). You are treating yourself, you're trying to kill yourself, same species, recently diverged, every single one unique, this is probably the reason why we haven't been able to beat cancer. We haven't had the specific enough tools, just to focus in on just that cancer cell.

Instead, we kind of take the "nuke it from orbit" approach. We're going to nuke every fast growing cell, why not, it's the only way to be sure. We don't have that specific approach. So one day, you feel a lump, and a few weeks later, you end up getting a really difficult treatment, you lose your hair, lining of your mouth and intestine starts sloughing off, and you feel like crap, because you're getting an optimized poison because that's the best we've got from the last century. And then you go into survivor mode, you know it's still in there lurking around, they are like cockroaches, it's like antibiotic resistance in bacteria except that, chances are with highly optimized medicine, they threw the best they had at them, so you are just happy to be alive. I really think we can do better. I think a lot of cancer research, well, I think it has been lost, because we didn't know about bacteria when we made antimicrobials, we just found stuff that killed bacteria. We didn't know about DNA, biosynthesis of cell walls, but it worked and it cured us. Targeting fast growing cells is 1950s, let's not do that. One size fit all drug making, it's kind of illogical with cancer, no two cancers are really the same. The hardest part about cancer these days is that change is hard- there's a lot of people that have been trained to think about cancer in a certain way. I started to think, what if I got cancer tomorrow? It's not hard, I smoke. I would want something absolutely specific to my cancer. I don't want to know how it's going to effect you, I want it to be gentle, I want it to tickle it to death, I want it to be effective and safe, and I want to clear it up, if I get a bacterial infection, I want it killed today, not in a month, and I don't want to nuke it from orbit. The clinical drug dev pipeline is tuned to make things like blockbuster movies. There are a tremendous amount of stakeholders for getting things through the system. There was this great paper in Nature that called Big Pharma on this.. 60 years of innovation in Big Pharma, it's never accelerated, this is just the best the system does. So, maybe it's time for a paradigm change, the paper said. What does that look like?

Ultimately, everyone in drug development, in the pharma industry, are worried about statistical analysis of population. Oh, this person, it's neutral, and oops, that one died. You have to calculate statistics about risk benefit. But then you think, why are you making drugs for populations anyway? It doesn't make sense for cancer, and if it's slowing us down that much for the approval process, how do you change that? You might be familiar with Chris Anderson and the long tail, and how the digital tech is changing the market place. You skip to the long tail in drug development, you get N=1, treatment it either works or it doesn't. So I designed a drug development system, about 3 years ago now, that started with one, isolate and analyze, we can threw a ton of tools cheaply at this, design a drug, it's not that hard, build it, test it on that one cancer cell, and iterate. It's cheap. Today, if we can do it in the BIOFAB, we don't need a company, we don't need a whole laboratory, if you make a drug, you're going to give it to an individual, just one person, and those results are going to go back and feed into the system. What I realized is that we have to change the business model to do it, because Big Pharma is not built to do this. I built a cooperative, it's just community members helping each other. It's completely open source, it's called Pink Army, we're focusing on breast cancer. Why not? It's the most community oriented, it'll work for any cancer, or antimicrobials. But this process is interesting. I charge $20 per share, it's the price of the pizza. If you are not going to invest the price of a pizza in cancer, you might want to rethink how strongly you think about cancer. We are trying to be the Linux of cancer, we need people to invest in themselves. The goal isn't to make one drug, it's to make a system that can make lots of drugs.

So, my idea is that is that we only need to treat one person to make this work. One person, one pill could really change the world in this case. One day, you can get advanced diagnostics, download it from the web. The next step in the evolution of the tech, is essentially everything you need to get a therapeutic. I really hope you join us, $20, tell your friends. If you are a cancer biologist, a young developer, or anything - I just really want to hear from you. Thank you very much.