E596: Matthew Markus’ Pembient is creating synthetic rhino horns to disrupt an illegal $750m trade and halt the acceleration of rhinoceros endangerment

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Today Jason explores the world of synthetic biology with Matthew Markus, Co-founder and CEO of Pembient, a startup creating synthetic rhinoceros horns to disrupt the $750m illegal rhino trade and stop the poaching and farming of this increasingly endangered animal. Matthew explains why the horns are so valued in East Asia (medicinal and luxury uses), how this overwhelming demand threatens the current rhino population, and his solution to end this problem. We see how Matthew’s startup actually creates and 3D prints the horn and how close biologically the synthetic are to actual horns (very close, and working to get closer every day). Jason and Matthew also discuss the synbio industry, the technology involved, some of the great things happening with food and synthetic biology (imagine steak created in a lab with no beef in it), and the future of synthetic biology and how these scientific advances could apply to humans, society, and bioterrorism.

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0:00 – 3:33 Intro/Welcome Matthew Markus

3:34 – 4:30 What is Pembient

4:31 – 8:11 All about rhinoceros horns and rhinos

8:12 – 11:48 Synthetic rhino horn

11:49 – 13:22 How the horns are used

15:04 – 21:20 Synthetic biology

21:21 – 26:09 Tech behind synthetic biology

26:10 – 28:36 International synthetic biology

30:33 – 34:57 SymBioBeta, synthetic bio in foods

34:58 – 38:40 The future of synthetic biology

38:41 – 44:14 Humans and synthetic biology

44:15 – 49:29 What it takes to get into synthetic biology, looking ahead

49:30 – 51:27 Austen Heinz, mental illness in startups

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