Current: Pandemic preparedness and protein engineering at Telis Bio

Former: Cultured meat R&D at Tufts University and Mission Barns

More Former: Global health programs at Medical Teams International

Even More Former: Whitewater rafting at Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys

Wiki Contributions


We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

What is your process for identifying and prioritizing new research questions? And what percentage of your work is going toward internal top priorities vs. commissioned projects?

How can we make Our World in Data more useful to the EA community?

A few things that jump to mind:

  • Data on the development of EA-related fields (e.g. growth of AI safety/alignment as an academic discipline, including things like funding, number of publications, number of faculty/graduate students, etc.)
  • Data on the history of philanthropy (e.g. how much have private philanthropists spent over the years, and on what?)
EA Forum engagement doubled in the last year

This is great to see! Do you have a sense of what fraction of the EA community is engaging with the forum? I'm curious how much of this growth is driven by the increased size of the EA community, versus an increased percentage of community members using the forum.

Announcing the Patient Philanthropy Fund

This is huge, congrats on the launch! I'm so excited for this fund to exist. How did you decide on the growth targets for the different phases? And will the balance be visible publicly (á la EA Funds) or disclosed some other way?

Introducing High Impact Professionals

Could you elaborate on your definition of "high impact professionals" as your target audience? I'm not sure I understand who exactly you're hoping to reach. Some examples (real or fictitious) of the types of people you have in mind would be helpful! 

The crux of the cultivated meat feasibility debate

The core of our disagreement seems to be here:

This estimate assumes that all biological functions in an organism can be replicated with technologies, and that these technologies can reach the same efficiency as the biological functions that reached high efficiency due to evolution and natural selection.

I don’t think this is realistic. Perhaps in isolation you could build systems that efficiently accomplish some of these functions, but in the case of cultured meat they all have to be compatible with/support the growth of animal cells and tissues. This is an enormous handicap. All of the technologies you cite as analogous (solar panels vs plants, cars vs horses, planes vs birds, recombinant vs porcine insulin) represent new approaches that are completely free from the limitations of the biological systems they’ve replaced. I don't think any of them should be counted as precedents for the type of innovation cultured meat would require.

New intuitions for cultured meat

We might not have to replicate the animal systems precisely, but we'd definitely need cheap solutions to the problems of contamination (3rd sentence), sensitivity/robustness (5th sentence), waste management (6th sentence), and scalability (7th and 8th sentences). All of these are currently huge issues for any biomanufacturing.

New intuitions for cultured meat

I don't think cars, solar panels, and recombinant insulin are analogous technologies here. Cars and solar panels won out because they are completely new approaches to transportation and solar energy capture that are not constrained by the biology of the systems they're replacing. Cultured meat seems severely handicapped by its reliance on the growth of animal cells and tissues. 

Recombinant insulin is still manufactured in biological systems (bacteria and yeast), but they are much simpler than mammalian cells and can efficiently express a protein that is only present in tiny amounts in the pig pancreases it used to be purified from. 

New intuitions for cultured meat

There's been some discussion over the years of genetically engineering farm animals so they don't experience pain, but I don't know of any efforts to remove sentience entirely. 

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