Hey everyone, welcome back to Bionic Bug podcast! You’re listening to episode 13. This is your host Natasha Bajema, fiction author, futurist, and national security expert. I’m recording this episode on July 21, 2018.
You might have noticed that I didn’t record a podcast episode last weekend. That’s because I was in New York City for ThrillerFest, which is the premiere conference for thriller enthusiasts, bringing together famous authors and new ones along with industry professionals, agents, and fans. This year, George R.R. Martin, author of Song of Ice and Fire, more popularly known as the HBO drama Game of Thrones, was the ThrillerMaster. I was lucky enough to meet him, get him to sign one of his books, but most importantly, I made him laugh. Something about D.C. being a lot like Kings Landing.
I also attended PitchFest, which is an event for authors to pitch their books to agents and editors. I’m excited to report that I met with nine agents about my first novel Bionic Bug. Six of them liked my pitch and asked me to send them chapters. In some ways, this is huge. Authors can spend several years trying to get the attention of agents by sending query letters. However, it is only the first of many obstacles to overcome to get a deal from a publishing house. Earlier this week, I spent time putting together my materials and sent them out. Now, it’s the waiting game. It could take up to 12 weeks. If I hear nothing, they’ve passed on my work this time around.
Let’s talk tech.
- “How to Build Synthetic DNA and Send it Across the Internet”
- This is a Ted Talk from Bioengineer Dan Gibson that was given in April 2018. In the talk, he talks about how scientists can now edit and program DNA, just like coders program a computer. This code gives scientists the power to convert digital information into biological material like proteins and vaccines.
I’ve talked about this issue before. Today, we can send the genomes of living organisms by email.
- A DNA sequence is made up of four letters (G’s, C’s, T’s and A’s). A genome costs of a certain number of base pairs that form two long DNA strands, a spiral structure called a double helix.
- When a genome is sequenced, the DNA code is read and then converted to ones and zeros, digital binary code that can be processed by computers.
- We are also seeing dramatic decreases in the synthesis of gene sequences, which is the primary focus of synthetic biology. Gene synthesis translates the genes from digital code to DNA sequence to physical DNA material.
- This means that scientists can build living organisms from a data file stored on a computer.
- There’s a growing catalog of genetic information on the Internet including information on gene sequences, gene functions, and full genomes of organisms.
- Researchers no longer need a physical source of DNA to manipulate it or study it. They can find a sequence online and have it chemically synthesized by a growing number of companies.
My colleagues at National Defense University and I have recently published a paper discussing the new risks emanating from the digitization of biology. If you’re interested, you can download it from NDU’s website.
- Natasha E. Bajema, Diane DiEuliis, Charles Lutes, and Yong-Bee Lim,The Digitization of Biology: Understanding the New Risks and Implications for Governance, Research Paper Series No. 3, Washington D.C.: National Defense University, July 2018.
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Let’s turn to Bionic Bug. Last week, Lara found out that Sully died as a result of a botulinum injection. The medical examiner also found indicators of the plague. When Lara mentions that her ex-boyfriend and FBI special agent found antibiotics in Sully’s trash, Detective Sanchez flies off the handle and stomps out of the morgue. Let’s find out what happens next.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.