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Talking Biotech #227 - Anti CRISPRs

The arms race between bacteria and the viruses that infect them brought the Cas9 and similar editing systems.  These enzymes are essentially a bacterial immune system, and now are being exploited as important tools in genetic engineering.  To counter the bacteria response viruses produce inhibitors of the Cas enzymes. Dr. Joseph Bondy-Denomy is a professor at the University of California San Francisco that studies these inhibitors.  He discusses their discovery and potential applications. 

Listen to Talking Biotech Podcast #227 here. 

The Inspiration of Being Un-Nominated

Awards and recognition are nice, not to litter the walls and mantle, but because they show that you have had impact and influence with a given group of respectables. It is a little pat on the back that your efforts are appreciated and meaningful. When your efforts sometimes came at personal and professional cost, that can mean a lot. 


Not so fast, someone online says you have skeletons in your closet, and that could make things uncomfortable!

I'm not going to provide details.  However, I recently found out that I was to be nominated for a rather prestigious recognition.  That's great, and I was honored that people I deeply respect felt that I was worthy of the opportunity.  That's a win right there. 

Today I found out that they are not going to continue with the nomination. Turns out that a discussion of the politics and optics suggest this maybe best be done sometime in the future.  Of course, it is no reflection on the body of work or impacts. It's just politics and opt…

Talking Biotech Podcast # 226 - The Global Gene Editing Tracker; Remembering Dr. Chad Finn

In the first part of today’s podcast Dr. Kayleen Schreiber and Jon Entine discuss the latest addition to the Genetic Literacy Project, a website called the Global Gene Editing Regulation Tracker.  This online resource provides instant access to the current state of gene editing approvals, along with information on gene drives and other important regulatory updates.  In the second half Dr. Bernadine Strik remembers her colleague Dr. Chad Finn.  Dr. Finn contributed in massive ways to plant breeding, particularly in the development of new berry varieties for the Pacific Northwest.  He also shared a tremendous interest in service to his community and to the scientific community, and was invested in students and the development of others. He was everyone’s friend. He left us suddenly and unexpectedly and leaves a palpable gap in our community. Dr. Strik memorializes his contributions and character.
Listen to Talking Biotech Podcast Episode #226 Here. 

Talking Biotech Podcast #225 - Fake News Survivor; Corona Virus Update

Dr. Ilaria Capua is an internationally recognized virologist, and a world expert in avian influenza and other animal viruses.  Following her effort to make genetic information about viruses more accessible in the interest of finding faster cures, she was unknowingly put under investigation, as she was central in moving viral information and samples to colleagues worldwide.  Wire taps and clandestine evidence gathering filled a file, that eventually would be discovered, leaked and maliciously reinterpreted, alleging that Dr. Capua was the mastermind of an international virus trafficking ring. She was accused in the media, without evidence, of providing viruses for others to spread so that she could profit from vaccines produced. These false allegations left her facing life in prison. Years later the charges were completely dismissed as manufactured claims by the media. However, the events were life changing. Today Dr. Capua has channeled her energies into broadening science education,…

Folta Returns as Talking Biotech Host

In November of 2019 I was told to end the long-running podcast series Talking Biotech.  I was devastated, and requested that the recorded episodes be allowed to run, which would take the podcast through 2019. 

I then decided to continue the podcast using guest hosts. Modesta Abugu stepped into that role, and hosted four weeks of outstanding content. 

I will return as podcast host on February 8, 2020.  The appropriate paperwork has been filed with my university for me to continue this outreach and education, but only to do it as "outside activity" -- a non-work-related effort executed outside of work time.  That's easy. It always was. 

Having a clear delineation from the university allows new flexibility in funding. I have elected to not pursue advertising (although it was lucrative for a podcast with this much traffic).  Instead I'm requesting small support form this loyal audience, as even a few dollars per month can translate into better products and penetration.  

Fun…

Straight Info on the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus

The outbreak of a new contagious virus in Wuhan has many people asking questions that the internet's experts are happy to answer.  As with any public health incident, the misinformation is difficult to separate from authentic guidance.

Today I was able to attend a discussion by animal virologist Dr. Illaria Capua.  She covered the topic with off-the-presses information and provided several action items. 

Dr. Capua made some clear points that I'll list as bullets for clarity.


Similar historical outbreaks.  SARS and MERS were also highly infectious coronaviruses, but were rapidly contained early because of their physical routes of transmission. Started in wildlife. These kinds of coronaviruses are transmitted to people from animals. Previous examples track transmission from chickens, pigs, camels and bats.  The 2019-nCoV virus likely originated from a bat. Numbers.  As of today, just under 9826 people are infected globally, and there has been 213 deaths (all fatalities in China).Wo…

Myth Busted - You Can Get GMO Seeds

One of the oldest and boring tropes of the anti-biotech movement is that it is impossible to acquire seeds for your own research.  That has been shown to be false over and over again, but the claim just does not die. 

The other day I was able to buy Roundup Ready seed online, a small batch of 2500 seeds for $44. It's a very high price of over two cents a seed.  

So there you have it.  You can buy the seeds online, they are not locked in a company vault, and they were easy to obtain.

Talking Biotech Podcast Going Forward

On November 14, 2019, I was told my my university to get out of visibility.  That meant no more use of social media or podcast, and I was to cancel future presentations, at least as I understood it in the room. To follow up, On November 18  I submitted a letter asking for clarity. It was clear that I was supposed to end the podcast and social media use. This was from a letter to university administration from me to summarize the expectations. It was clear that I was supposed to end the series. You may notice that a few more were added and the series extended through 2019.
I received a response that did not address the podcast, but told me to use social media with discretion and cancel talks.  I cancelled six substantial talks. It was horrifying to back out of long-standing commitments.  I then submitted paperwork on December 11, 2019 asking for permission to identifind another host for the podcast, and I'd just do the production.  That way the series could continue and I'd be ou…

Goop-ing Up Medical Media

The Goop brand is synonymous with horrible health advice, packing bogus treatments and misinformation as credible medical intervention.  Now the originator of the brand, Gwenyth Paltrow (self-described as knowing nothing about science) has a new streaming video series coming on Netflix, permitting a pipeline of misinformation to penetrate even more deeply. 



Netflix gives its grand stage to Paltrow, providing a larger audience to mislead and even harm.

Paltrow and her brand have loosely targeted women's health issues offering a series of claims, advice and products that have been highly criticized by legitimate physicians like Jen Gunter.  Like Gwenyth's hinterparts the Goop brand has only picked up steam.  
What's the harm?  Paltrow's celebrity status affords her immediate cache as an expert in everything.  The scientific evidence clearly shows that celebrity advice influences vaccination rates, cancer screening and cancer treatment.  On the other end of the spectrum they…

Talking Biotech 220 - Biotech Cotton Comes to Kenya

This outstanding educational series continues in my absence with the first of many guest hosts. Your continued interest and support are more important than ever. 


Kenya is an emerging economy and has significant investment in advanced technologies.  However, a 2013 ban on biotech crops has limited farmer access to the most needed technologies for the field.  That moratorium is finally being lifted, as biotech cotton has been approved and will be available to farmers in 2020.  Farmers recognize the potential for Bt cotton to reduce or eliminate dependence on the insecticides currently required for production.  Today's guest is Daniel Magondu, Chairman of the Society of Biotech Farmers of Kenya.  The episode is hosted by Modesta Abugu, a graduate student studying tomato improvement. Follow Modesta Abugu on Twitter: @modestannediAbout the Socienty of Biotech Farmers in Kenya (SOBIFAK)Listen to the Episode Here. 



Chipotle's Ag-vertising to Fix their Anti-Ag Image

After years of anti-farmer rhetoric, disgusting anti-agriculture videos, and trashing farmer seed choice, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito.  Their new "Cultivate the Future of Farming" campaign raises awareness of the hardship being experienced in agriculture, and then offers their thoughts and some seed grants in order to reverse it. 

But are they solving a problem that they were instrumental in creating? 

The crisis in agriculture is real, with farmers suffering from low prices, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farmer suicides are a barometer of the crisis.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. It is good to see a company raising awareness. 


From Chipotle's website- The "challenge is real" and "It's a hard living"-- and companies like Chipotle were central in creating those problems. 

However, Chipotle&#…