What is the Bio-Revolution?
Entirely new markets are built when a platform system is introduced that people can build their own applications on top of. Build the internet, open up the market for websites. Build the television, get a dizzying array of new shows.
Creating the groundwork for a new paradigm often involves knocking down the door to a very hardcore problem, the kind that stumps experts for ages until a janitor walks in and takes a peek at the blackboard. The integral factor that holds it all back, but once a solution is found, it releases the floodgates.
Our current age, especially the last twenty years, has been a very peculiar time for new markets. The urgency of climate change is pushing sustainable products at a breakneck speed, and crypto imagines new acronyms daily.
One that may be flying a little under the radar of the public eye is a paradigm shift referred to as the ‘bio-revolution’.
One very prominent example of this is Moderna’s pioneering innovation for the global pandemic; the RNA vaccine. Leaving your politics at home, this technology is going to shotgun down diseases and human suffering with the speed and diversity we never even would have dared to imagine before.
In a quick summary, RNA vaccines work by delivering a blueprint of how to build a therapeutic treatment to your cells, instead of the treatment itself. The cells then take these plans, make the treatment internally, show your body what it looks like, then destroy the blueprints but remember how to create more.
This makes it safer, quicker to create, and much more practical for commercialization of a broad range of diseases.
However, one brick does not build a mansion any more than one cool biology product is a revolution. So where else is biology changing how we operate in the world?
Markets and verticals you would never expect are soon to be shaped and improved by harnessing the power of biology. Clothes are being made from modified insect webbing. Homes are being built from wood grown in a reactor. DNA is being used to store sensitive information, and I know you’ve heard about the power of your microbiome at least a thousand times by now.
And if it all sounds kind of weird, a bit off-putting, and outlandishly futuristic, well that’s because it is. It’s only weird because we haven’t done it this way before, but it’s hardly different from farmers selecting the biggest and prettiest fruits over and over again until gargantuan oranges dominate the field. Genetics is simultaneously very complicated and very simple, but altogether it is undoubtedly under-utilized.
What is happening right now is a lot of proof of concept work where companies come up with huge new ideas, but they never seem to get off the ground.
Because new technology is expensive, especially when it’s a far drift from the current means of production. Something needs to come along to improve the bottom line of these companies, to bring down the costs of scaling biology as a whole, and do so in a way that can be applied to a wide variety of current niches (and those that will surprise us in the future). Something, something, panacea, amirite?
No, because like I said earlier, biology is both complicated and simple. On one hand, there are thousands of proteins inside every cell of your body, hundreds of types of cells, and trillions of biological interactions happening inside each organism, every day.
Luckily, all metabolism operates by a simple principle. Food gets broken down and reconstructed into the basic components the cell needs, then the waste gets pushed out. All of these processes together take some energy to turn food into fuel, but they generally create more energy for the organism to utilize than they use up internally. This is why we can eat things and use them as energy.
Say you eat an egg, which is then broken down to basic protein and fat components in your stomach and intestines. In turn, these become part of your body in new forms, and anything the body doesn’t use becomes waste.
The body uses a percentage of caloric energy that the egg contains and uses it to fuel the cellular machines that turn those broken-down components into gainz. Calories are basically biological energy. Hypothetically, if your body somehow had to use less caloric energy to break down and build up the fat and protein, that means that a larger percentage of the energy could be used to create cellular products.
This situation is what would happen if your metabolism was more efficient. Less energy spent to make the process work.
For many new biologic-based companies, getting living cells to grow and operate is more expensive than the end product is worth (Ex. biofuels). The money spent to build factories, keep cells dividing and producing, then process the final product into something usable is very expensive. The more end product you can get from the same process, the less it costs per unit. A lot of current businesses just aren’t getting enough end product to sell it at prices that people will buy. The fundamental business math just doesn’t add up.
To understand how, let’s picture a programmer writing a script to generate fake code. They are new at programming and maybe don’t know all the tips and tricks to make things as clean and easy as they could be, so instead everything is long and complicated, and inefficient.
// Execute: FAKE CODE FUNCTION AB311-//9
/root is a word people use I think?
long root = rooooooot
Mathy math math[[ — =+ii]]
Processor. RAM. Hard Drive. <Integer> test =
if penguin fall
then haha much funny
What Van Heron Labs does is boil the process down to only what it most needs. In a cell making insulin, that means it focuses only on the insulin and doesn’t focus as hard on wasting energy replicating itself (a very energy-intensive process). If that cell isn’t wasting energy on other processes and resources, then it can divert those resources into making more insulin.
The same cells, operating more efficiently, means more end product from the same input. In a code sense, it might look like this:
// Execute: IMPROVED FAKE CODE FUNCTION AB311-//9
/this is fake code
Instead of a long script of executables, the same outcome can be possible from 1 line of code. Efficiency.
So how does Van Heron Labs do this? Well, we’re lucky to live in a time when computing power is able to compile and make sense of extremely large data files. Essentially, we use computing algorithms and a proprietary flowthrough process to reprogram the metabolism of cells so that they are optimized, efficient, and fully productive.
Van Heron Labs can use large data files taken directly from specific cells, making specific things, at a specific time in their manufacturing process, and find out exactly what the input feed and process needs to be to reduce wasted cellular energy. No magic, just unit economics and data. That’s why it’s so widely applicable, and why this platform has the potential to tear down barriers for a host of new companies and their cells of choice.
We’re starting at the fundamentals of biology, changing the process so that others can build on top of it. This is a paradigm shift that will rewrite the basics of how to manufacture for future generations.
Written by Alec Santiago