Day 30: If You Can Dream It, They Can Engineer It

Fourth rest day today. To kick off the morning we visited with cancer researchers Dr. Chris Stack and Stephen Heinsch on the University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul. Their shared discipline falls into the field of synthetic biology and specifically mammalian cells.  Their research focuses on reprogramming t cells to attack tumors on cancer patients.

We learned that at the moment, the University is licensing technology to a company to use in car t therapy. This works by extracting a patient’s t cells, engineering them to recognize and kill tumors, and then administering them back to the patient.

Since I am not a student in the sciences, I expected the meeting to be a bit over my head, however, the two kept the meeting very lively by engaging us in interesting happenings in the field of synthetic biology.  Although it focused some of us to try and remember the basics of the last intro to bio class we took, it was still very interesting. As we listened, each of us tried to see how this talk connected to our specific field, and actuarial science man Dan joked “can a genome have insurance”.

During their talk they brought up the possibility of synthetic blood, to help the dilemma of shortages in surgery. I also learned that genome sequencing is becoming standard practice in places such as Europe, and Stephen even pointed out that he “had a small device that plugs into his laptop that could sequence genomes” as if it were a casual thing to own. These two proved to be fanboys of the famous George Church aka the father of synthetic biology. As they began to delve deeper they revealed that they were interested in that type of sci-fi bioengineering you know of from movies like Jurassic Park or Gattica. And at one point they discussed a researcher at Harvard that is actively trying to recreate wooly mammoths.

After the meeting the team broke up and either made their way to one of the many local bike shops in the hipster neighborhood that we are currently residing, or took to exploring the town. To cap off the night many of us visited the famed Mall of America and treated ourselves to a sushi dinner. Overall Minneapolis was a very clean, bike-friendly, hipster city. I wouldn’t be mad if I ended up here (during the summer only).

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.


Look up George Church yourself if you are not familiar. (He is impressive)



Comments (1)
  • Mamma Benson says:

    30 days of riding…CONGRATULATIONS I4K Team!

    Keep up the good work and ride Safely.

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