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#7 - Frontier Tech
Tech for cancer biology, forever chemicals' achilles heel, throwing rockets into space, an MEV breakdown, more continuous hormone monitoring, protein design w NLP, & great frontier tech roles.
Frontier Tech Investment Theses
Biology / Oncology: New Tech for Cancer Biology (Dennis Gong, 8.22.22)
An overview of existential questions in technology development when thinking about improving target identification, and notes on tool compounds, CRISPR, scRNA-seq, spatial biology, traditional -omics (GWAS, bulk RNA-Seq, proteomic atlases), and cryo-EM.
Healthcare: Healthcare Investment Theses (Nikhil, 7.12.22)
Healthcare investment areas across standardization of measurements, processes, and data; physician independence + unbundling the hospital; patient-to-patient education and support channels; services-as-APIs, diagnostics, and improving audits and compliance.
Research Developments in the Frontier Space
Synthetic Biology & Forever Chemicals: Low-temperature mineralization of perfluorocarboxylic acids (8.18.22)
With over 50,000 tons of forever chemicals (PFAS) are emitted into the atmosphere each year from all sorts of household items, scientists have been searching for ways to break them down within our ecosystem as their molecular structure is extremely resistant to decay. They’ve been linked to increased risk of cancer, liver damage, thyroid issues, low birth weight and reduced immunity.
Within this paper, scientists have found that when mixing PFAS chemicals with two low-cost compounds in heat the molecules fall apart! This is likely the beginning of a big shift in our ability to fully degrade forever chemicals rather than just remove them from one area to another.
Machine Learning: Stable Diffusion Public Release (8.22.22)
Through the collaboration of a number of leading ML engineers and companies, a stable diffusion text-to-image model is now available to researchers and will soon be available fully to anyone.
Biology & Machine Learning: Controllable Protein Design with Language Models (1.18.22)
“Amino acids arrange in a multitude of combinations to form structures that carry function, the same way as letters form words and sentences that carry meaning” and so NLP models are an interesting tool to understand the folding principles of proteins.
“Finetuning pre-trained NLP models on protein families will enable the extension of their repertoires with novel sequences that could be highly divergent but still potentially functional. The combination of control tags such as cellular compartment or function will further enable the controllable design of novel protein functions. Moreover, recent model interpretability methods will allow us to open the 'black box' and thus enhance our understanding of folding principles. While early initiatives show the enormous potential of generative language models to design functional sequences, the field is still in its infancy. We believe that protein language models are a promising and largely unexplored field and discuss their foreseeable impact on protein design.”
Market Commentary in Frontier Tech Space
Crypto: MEV Breakdown (7.21.22)
“How does MEV work? MEV is all about exploiting the privilege of being able to include, exclude, re-order, or insert transactions into the next block.”
“In a world where MEV can only be captured by advanced searchers or highly connected miners with lots of resources, economic pressure will push blockchains towards centralization. While “economies of scale” is typically a positive term in the off-chain world, it’s something to be avoided in crypto. Decentralization relies upon a (roughly) linear relationship between a miner/validator’s resources and their earnings so that smaller network participants are not significantly disadvantaged. Fortunately, tools like Flashbots have largely mitigated this risk.”
“it’s not unreasonable to view MEV as an evolving market that first favored searchers, has shifted to more strongly favor miners, and will eventually start to favor users as a result of competitive forces.”
Healthcare / Endocrinology: Wearable Hormone Sensors (Sarah Constantine, 3.30.22)
I wrote about this briefly in frontier tech #5, and several people kindly pointed me to this article Sarah wrote a few months ago. She breaks down a potential impedance spectroscopy approach, and some people working in the space.
“What’s Left To Do? The hardest technical problem — demonstrating that accurate, consistent measurements of hormone levels can be made in near-real-time from human sweat — seems to be mostly solved. Getting the sweat, once a major challenge, seems to be possible today. Flexible skin patches with microfluidic channels can collect small quantities of sweat and guide it to flow over electrode sensors via capillary action.”
Aerospace: Can we throw Satellites into Space? on Spin Launch (8.6.22)
A lovely documentary on Spin Launch’s attempt to solve the rocket equation, a calculation that describes how much fuel a rocket needs to carry it’s payload to its location (where fuel needed to deliver the payload is also a payload), and so these rockets typically need to be more than 90% fuel. By using a giant centrifuge to launch the rocket instead, Spin could massively revolutionize rocket engineering.
ML/Fashion: DALLE generated outfits + Runway.ml rotoscoping. (8.23.22)
I’ve been skeptical of generative fashion but these are some of the best outfits I’ve seen. Excited to see where this space and subsequent tooling develops.
Frontier tech jobs:
Machine Learning / Creative Tooling: Runway ML
Chemical Engineering / Biology: Helaina, synthetic breast milk
See details on what the team is working on here
Biology / (CV/ Embedded Systems) Engineering: Spaero, lab automation
Energy / Ocean Tech: Stealth
Biology: Culture Biosciences, cloud-based bioreactors
Biology / Mechanical Engineering: Bionaut, precision medicine delivery through remote controlled nanobots
Healthcare: ARPA-H, Project Lead, help spin up the newest Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on healthcare and scaled biomedical research.
Biology: Convergent FROs, small agile organizations that aim to fill a gap in the translational science landscape.
Focused Research Organizations (FROs) undertake projects too big for an academic lab but not directly profitable enough to be a venture-backed startup or industrial R&D project. Think "Series-A-sized org whose product is a public good to revolutionize a scientific field".
Crypto: Volt Labs, work on crypto projects for the research arms of crypto-focused Volt Capital.
Looking to bounce around ideas about technology in the space? Looking for a cofounder or team member, or want to submit a job description to be featured in my newsletter? Trying to join a new frontier tech startup? Fill out the form below and let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll do my best do respond with an answer, suggestion, company, or meeting time!
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