Embryo in a Mechanical Womb

Cell Crunch (Issue 2021.03.19)

Niko McCarty
Mar 19 · 4 min read

Reach out on Twitter with feedback and questions. Receive this free newsletter every Friday morning by clicking here.

An early-stage embryo. [Credit: DrKontogianniIVF | Pixabay]

You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live; but, of course, I know nothing about it. I may add that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing.

Henry David Thoreau

📰 Bioengineering in the News

A machine-learning CRISPR approach for sustainable buildings on Mars. Money.

EX UTERO MICE: For a Nature study, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science grew mice in little bottles, ex utero. The mouse embryos developed up to the hind limb formation stage, and the researchers have grown more than 1,000 embryos using this method. The New York Times. Link (Also covered in Science, MIT Technology Review and Future Human.)

UK CRISPR NEWS: The UK is considering a departure from EU regulations on gene-edited food, opening the gates for CRISPR-edited crops. A government department “is proposing that gene-editing technology should not be regulated in the same way as GM, if it yields a result that could have been produced by conventional breeding,” according to reporting by Nature. Link

TED TALK: Emily Leproust, CEO of Twist Bioscience, gave a TED talk on synthetic biology and how it can impact food and health. It’s already been viewed nearly 500,000 times. Link

COSMETIC EVENT: An event, scheduled for March 24th at 4pm (GMT+1), will bring together synthetic biologists to talk about how recent research can be transferred to the cosmetic industry. It looks like registration is free. Link

RULE REWRITE: The “14-day rule” for growing embryos in the lab may soon be revised, according to reporting by Antonio Regalado. MIT Technology Review. Link (Twitter thread for this article.)

SAVE THE OCEANS: Davey Ho (whose artwork has appeared in this newsletter) wrote a great piece about how synthetic biology can help with marine conservation. SynBioBeta. Link

MUSHROOM CLOTHES: Stella McCartney, in a collaboration with Bolt Threads, is launching shirt and pants made from Mylo (an engineered mushroom material.) The clothes are jet black, and look straight out of Star Trek. Vogue. Link

ALGAE-COATED CLOTHES: A French car company, called DS Automobiles, launched a four-piece fashion collection. The clothes are coated in living, photosynthetic algae, because…why not? Dezeen. Link

BIOTECH BATCH: IndieBio, the biotech accelerator program, has announced their latest batch of companies (including one that is developing micro-sponges for bees?). Tech Crunch. Link

NEW TV SHOW: A new television series is in the works, “centered on the dangerous and life-affirming ways” that gene-editing can alter our world. George Church is involved. Deadline. Link

XPRIZE WINNERS: The XPrize has picked nine teams as winners of its $6 million “COVID diagnostics competition.” Winning ideas included smell machines and RNA-based tests for SARS-CoV-2. Fierce Biotech. Link

LAB BLASTOIDS: For multiple studies, researchers coaxed “lab-grown human cells to form clusters” similar to blastocysts. The breakthrough could help scientists better study human fertility and embryo development. Science. Link (Also covered in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.)

SYNBIO STOCK: After Amyris, a synthetic biology company, switched from biofuels to the personal care space, their stock went up 10x. Forbes. Link

BABY ANTIBODIES: An American woman who received a dose of the coronavirus vaccine while 36 weeks pregnant is the first to give birth to a baby known to have antibodies against the novel coronavirus. The Guardian. Link

PAPER DEAL: The University of California and Elsevier have finally agreed to an “open-access deal.” The Scientist. Link

LUNAR ARK: This is bizarre: Scientists want to store the DNA sequences for millions of species on the moon, using hollowed out tunnels to protect them from the insults of space. Live Science. Link

DNA DETECTIVES: As DNA databases expand, and computational tools improve, two researchers ask: Will forensic DNA become better at finding criminals? Advanced Science News. Link

💳Industry Updates

Allonia (Boston, MA), a Ginkgo Bioworks spinout using microbes to clean up pollution, has raised $20 million from a cleantech fund, called Evok Innovations. Axios. Link

Bluebird bio (Cambridge, MA), the gene therapy company behind the halted sickle cell clinical trial, has released encouraging results for their cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy therapy. The company’s chief medical officer has also quit. Fierce Biotech. Link

CytoSeek (Bristol, UK), a startup biotech company, has raised nearly $5 million in a round of funding. The company is developing a protein “coat” that binds to immune cells and gives them enhanced therapeutic properties. Fortune. Link

ElevateBio (Cambridge, MA), a cell and gene therapy company, raised $525 million in a series C round. Tech Crunch. Link

Navega Therapeutics (San Diego, CA), a UCSD spinout company, is developing gene therapies for pain. The company’s founders published a study, last week, in which they used CRISPR to repress the gene that encodes Nav1.7, thus reducing pain in mice without opioids. Fierce Biotech. Link


Twist Bioscience, the DNA synthesis company, has four job openings that they’re hoping to fill. Automation/Senior Automation Engineer (Link) Senior Full Stack Engineer (Link) Scientist, Synthetic Biology (Link) Scientist, SVL Product Development (Link)

Edinburgh University has a 4 year PhD project for UK/EU students. Cell-free biosensors to monitor whisky quality! Link (Tweet) What a dream.

The Plesa lab at the University of Oregon has a funded position for a postdoc to work on gene synthesis technologies. URMs and those with an interest in entrepreneurship are encouraged to apply. Link

The Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine, at the University of Washington, is hiring a director of single-cell genomics. Link

Octant Bio is hiring a computational biologist in population genomics. Link

Until next time,


Thanks for reading Cell Crunch, part of Bioeconomy.XYZ. If you enjoy this newsletter, please share it with a friend or colleague. Reach me with tips and feedback @NikoMcCarty or via email.

Innovation for the Bioeconomy

Niko McCarty

Written by

Science journalism at NYU. Previously Caltech, Imperial College. #SynBio newsletter: Web:


The Medium publication for biotechnology and everyone involved in the revolution. The best brought to you by the brightest.

Niko McCarty

Written by

Science journalism at NYU. Previously Caltech, Imperial College. #SynBio newsletter: Web:


The Medium publication for biotechnology and everyone involved in the revolution. The best brought to you by the brightest.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store