TedX Santa Barbara: Hot-rodding Cells & AI for Building Drugs – An Interview with Mike Fero, PhD

Picture of TeselaGen Team

TeselaGen Team

Mike Fero

Last week TeselaGen founder, president and COO Mike Fero, PhD, had the opportunity to speak with Mark Sylvester, host of Making Waves Conversations on TedX Santa Barbara. We always enjoy these opportunities, because they give us the chance to lift our heads from the daily grind and reflect on the important work in our field. Mike’s mark in physics is well known; he tackled the fundamental physics of the Electroweak interaction at MIT and Stanford. We’re fortunate he was later lured into the field of biology – and decided to stay. “I’ve been happily in that world ever since,” he says.

In speaking with TedX Santa Barbara, Mike reflects on where we are now in the fields of biology and biotechnology. “I think it’s something like where physics was back in the 1920s when people were really understanding how things worked at a very fundamental level. We’re kind of going through that now, since the 1970s. I don’t think the story is really over. It will probably be another 50-100 years of interesting work.”

Mike has a way with words, too, comparing organism making and modding to “turning a Dodge Dart into a dragster.”  “What’s happened over the last 30 years is that our tools, our ability to modify microbes and to manipulate them, to bend them to our will, has just increased so much. The tools and techniques are just amazing now. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of that story either. It’s just going to get better and better.”

We won’t spoil the interview for you, but we hope you’ll tune in. Mike waxes on the “artisanal work” of organism making and modding,  the birth of modern biotech, the ethics of genetic engineering, the bio-based economy, and, dear-to-our-heart, AI and machine learning.  “What I think is a new and exciting use of AI is not necessarily combing through sequences looking for lots of things, which is a valid use for it, but using artificial intelligence to proactively say, how am I going to better build this drug.”

Thanks to Mark Sylvestor for giving Mike a break from his day job and to Mike for sharing his insights.