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Astro Seminar

Immortal Martians and other improbable ways of making money

Speaker: Dr William Bains (MIT)
Date: Wednesday 2 October 2019
Time: 14:00
Venue: Queens Buildings N/4.07

What links anti-aging medicine, poisoned minnows and life on other worlds with venture financing start-ups? Apart from the career of scientist and entrepreneur William Bains, apparently nothing. But science is about making connections and understanding fundamentals, and provides unexpected routes into the practical world. Dr. Bains will discuss the improbable route to his current start-up company in anti-aging medicine, staring with his work at MIT on astrobiology, the search for life on other worlds. Finding out what life might do on an alien planet is related to finding out what it does not do on Earth, and why. For example, life rarely uses nitrogen-sulfur bonds. Why not? It turns out that there are rules about what chemistry can and cannot be incorporated into biochemistry, a basic, abstract description of the chemistry of life. This could provide an equally basic understanding about how that chemistry fails as we age. But can such inevitably abstract knowledge be applied in the less-than-abstract world of venture-funded biotechnology? The emerging field of anti-aging medicine may provide new impetus to applying new discoveries in the life sciences, but there are formidable barriers to overcome. Drawing on 20 years of failure (and occasional success) in the start-up arena, Dr. Bains will finish by discussing the pitfalls of start-ups, and why anyone would want to do them.