Genomics around the world / Biotech geeks on a plane

The Original – Geeks on a Plane

Geeks on a plane is an initiative developed by Dave McClure (http://500hats.typepad.com/) in the hi-tech industry.  The idea behind it is that a group of VC’s, Entrepreneurs and CEO’s of tech companies and bloggers travel together annually to a number of countries within a defined region with the following goals

  • To seek new investment opportunities
  • To understand new potential markets internationally and their local market dynamics
  • To meet leading local entrepreneurs, founders and learn about new companies within the region.
  • To foster international networking efforts and share their collective experiences

Previous trips have included Asia, Europe and Latin America. Most of these trips are self funded by the individuals and cost approx $5000 per trip.  In addition, individuals that attend this trip are selected by a panel for their eligibility. The trips are reported on in real time via social media and a modest PR campaign does the rest of the awareness building.

To learn more about geeks on a plane – http://geeksonaplane.com/about/

Genomics around the World

The biotech industry can learn a thing or two from a program like this.  As someone whose job involves travelling around the world learning about biotech markets in every country and talking to regional key opinion leaders in genomics, cancer research and personalized medicine I can see a significant opportunity for us in the biotech world to emulate this.

Some of the drivers for a program like this include

  • Scientific research is becoming more collaborative.
  • As we approach an era of personalized medicine, genomic researchers are recognizing the importance of having diverse ethnicities and populations represented in their studies, particularly when it comes to understanding disease and pharmacogenomics.
  • Funding from traditional sources is getting more and more limited and we have to think differently if we are to accomplish major scientific breakthroughs with fewer resources
  • Countries outside Europe and the US are starting to develop specialty expertise in niche areas for example
    • India and South America are starting to become leaders in Ag-bio, bovine breeding and growing biotech crops.
    • China is about to become one of the countries with the largest sequencing output. BGI (Beijing genomics institute) is in possession of 137 Next generation sequencing systems and is involved in research projects  like  1000 plants and animals genome project (http://www.ldl.genomics.cn/page/pa-research.jsp) and the 10,000 Microbial genomes project (http://www.ldl.genomics.cn/page/M-research.jsp )
    • Countries with large populations like China and India have the ability to collect large numbers of samples from patients.  In western countries, large sample cohorts like these can take many years to collect particularly in the case of rare diseases.
    • Countries within the Middle East and parts of Asia have super high rates of consanguinity.  Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can have up to 60% consanguineous marriages. This makes them hot-spots for congenital diseases and developmental delay caused by cytogenetic aberrations.  In addition the populations of these countries can harbor high rates of very rare autosomal recessive disorders often not studied or even seen in the western world.
    • Countries in parts of Africa, are yet participate or even be represented in the genomics revolution.  Whether they suffer from diseases which afflict only their ethnic groups, or from a lack of food to feed their populations, biotechnology has the propensity to solve some of these problems, if only they had funds and resources to access it.

These are just a few examples but the point is that each region has the ability to bring not only opportunities unique in their region but also expertise, skill set and resources in niche areas.

Biotech geeks on a plane

My proposal is to get together with a group of like minded individuals who believe that we can change the world through capitalizing on the fact that the world is getting smaller and use this to facilitate and drive global collaboration which can accelerate scientific breakthroughs.

The vision would be to assemble a group composed of leading research scientists from leading academic institutes, clinicians, individuals from the biotech industry, technology developers and bioinformaticians,  who are united in an effort to understand the challenges and opportunities in various regions of the world.

If you would like to join the growing group of people interested in this, please join us on LinkedIn – Biotech Geeks on a Plane / Genomics Around the World http://t.co/Z8UcH1g

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