Is this the era of biology? It certainly seems that way.
For at least a century, scientists have tinkered with nature to solve problems. Two young researchers at the University of Toronto extracted insulin from dogs in 1921 and used the molecule to treat people with diabetes. The U.S.D.A. bred screwworms, sterilized them with x-rays, and airdropped them over Texas in the 1950s to decimate screwworm populations, which killed hundreds of thousands of cattle each year. The human insulin gene was cloned into bacteria in 1978. Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996.
For a long time, such stories were relatively rare. Now they seem to happen every month.
Dozens of cell and gene therapies have been FDA-approved. Engineered microbes convert steel factory waste into ethanol. Some vaccines are designed on computers. Transgenic goats make lysozyme-laced milk that could help prevent childhood diarrheal diseases. And 95 percent of livestock in America are fed with genetically-modified crops. Our food and medical systems are already reliant upon biotechnology. In a few decades, so too will just about everything else.
When progress is swift, though, stories lag. Too many people are unaware of biology’s promise, or hold only vague thoughts about its perils. We need deeper, data-driven stories that make sense of the past, present, and future of biotechnology.
That’s why we’re building Asimov Press.
Asimov Press is editorially-independent from Asimov, the company. We will publish essays, themed magazine issues, and books about engineered biology, especially at the intersection of AI and living systems. It is inspired by Stripe Press, a publishing venture that is funded by the payments company and aims to share “ideas for progress by publishing books about economic, technological, and societal advancements.” We will cover diverse stories, people, and places by publishing work that spans history, biology, software, and ethics.
Asimov Press will be led by founder and editor, Niko McCarty. We’re looking to hire an additional Editor/Writer to join the team, and also to expand our network of writers and data scientists to contribute articles and graphics. If this sounds like a job for you, please get in touch.
Our ambition is to grow the bioeconomy by sharing good ideas that attract talent, inspire research, and crowdsource solutions to global challenges. We’ll try to make sense of biosecurity, protein design, genome editing, and whatever comes next. Instead of being passive participants in this strange era, we’ll use stories to make sense of, and shape, our collective future.
Asimov Press launches in late 2023.