Laurie Garrett on Dual Use Research of Concern

Have you ever heard of directed evolution or synthetic biology?

Laurie Garrett, the Council of Foreign Relations’ Senior Fellow for Global Health, recently put out a video about the potential dangers of such cutting edge biotechnology.

The official name for the dangerous scientific research Garrett brings to our attention is dual use research of concern, meaning that what some scientists publish as research can get into the wrong hands and be used as biological weapons to contaminate and even exterminate the population.

Since scientists know that harmful viruses and pathogens will evolve naturally evading drugs and treatment, scientists often times alter the genetics of the disease in order to predict its mutations and be better prepared to combat its new form.

For example, a H5N1 (bird flu virus) researcher named Dr. Ron Fouchier modified the H5N1 virus in the lab so that it was contagious between ferrets by merely coughing on each other. In this case, Fouchier engineered a non-contagious disease to be easily spread from person to person, making a harmful virus exponentially more hazardous. This created debate about whether or not such research should be published, as it essentially contains the blue print for a pandemic. But, as Garrett says in the video, of course it was published, and such research will continue to be published; this is only the beginning of dual use research of concern, as we enter this bio-tech revolution.

Just as Michael Crichton pointed out in Jurassic Park over 20 years ago, scientists are so concerned with what they can do that they often don’t stop to think whether they should do it. But, like Garrett says this isn’t science fiction, this is reality.

So, the research was published. But, just how easy can it be to make such a harmful microorganism? Garrett reveals that with the rapid prevalence of 3-D printers, the technology to print organic material and living organisms is not far behind. That technology paired with the recently popularized at home genome sequencers, makes the rapid acquisition of things such as pandemic pathogens possible.

What do you think about dual research of concern? At what point does such research become more harmful than helpful?

Watch Garrett’s video to help formulate your opinion.

Or, see Garrett in person at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. The conference will be held during October 2 through 4 at Scripps Seaside Forum and the Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California. For more information on speakers and registration, please visit


Jacopo Annese: Slicing, Dicing and Digitizing Brains

How many of you have that little organ donor sticker on your driver’s license? According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, over 200,000 Californians have pledged to donate their healthy organs upon their death to people in need.

But what about donating your organs to science? The work of Jacopo Annesse, assistant professor in residence at UC San Diego’s department of Radiology and director of the The Brain Observatory, would never have gotten to where it is today without the donations of over 1,000 brains.

In 2005, Annese founded The Brain Observatory and in 2009, was given one of the most famous brain’s in medical history.

Henry Molaison, medically known as patient HM, underwent brain surgery in 1953 in an attempt to treat his severe epileptic convulsions. Although the surgery helped his seizures, from that day on he was unable to retain a memory for longer than 20 seconds.

Upon his death in 2008, he donated his brain to The Brain Observatory, with Annese at the head of the investigating team preparing to dissect and digitize the brain. In 2009, the operation finally took place but, this one brain was just the beginning, spurring the formation of the Digital Brain Library.

This project has called for the donation of 1,000 brains to be similarly dissected and digitally recorded in the hopes of creating a comprehensive catalog of the brains to serve as a virtual map of the brain’s composition. The Digital Brain Library will simultaneously record 1,000 neurological portraits that can give scientists insight on the links between biological complexities, disease, and individual or social behaviors.

Hear Annese explain his work himself in this episode of Health Matters.

Or, catch him in person at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by The Atlantic Magazine and UC San Diego Extension. The conference will be held on October 2 through 4 at Scripps Seaside Forum and Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California. For more information on speakers and registration, visit

Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream

Chopra’s newest book, Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, revisits the topic of immigration and details his experience behind why he wrote the letter to the Boston Globe decades ago. This book, released only a few weeks ago, could not have been planned more timely with the heated debate over the immigration bill recently passed in the senate.

This story, co-authored by his brother Sanjiv, is the tale of two Indian doctors who have come to the live out the American dream, during the Vietnam war when there was a doctor shortage. Watch this preview of their tale.

In a time such as now, with the country fiercely divided on immigration issues, the Chopra brothers reveal their experience as immigrants and their journey of making America their new home. They explain that an alienation from one’s home country must take place before assimilation can be achieved. In empathizing with the story of two immigrant doctors, readers can better understand the difficulties faced by the illegal migrant workers from Mexico and their hopes of pursuing that same American dream.


Deepak Chopra’s life story is a brotherly tale.

Hear the two brothers discuss their book on PBS.

To read an article from Deepak about how this book relates to current immigration issues, click here.

Deepak will be speaking at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. The conference will be held on October 2 through 4 at Scripps Seaside Forum and Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California. For more information on speakers and registration, please visit

The Latest Buzz in Self Quantifying

This morning, KPBS reporter Angela Carone unveiled the latest device from UC San Diego’s Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute, invented by the director of the institute, Ramesh Rao.

This new self quantifying system of machines is called the Bliss Buzzer and is worn to measure heart rate in order to determine when the user is optimally relaxed, at which point it gives the wearer a small vibration, or buzz.

Just like a pedometer that measures one’s steps, the Bliss Buzzer is a training device, intended to make people more aware of the subtle functioning of their own body.

Rao created the device with the intention of showing people when they are really relaxed, hoping that with this knowledge they will strive to create more restful moments through out the day. Carone describes the buzz as an inaudible, enjoyable tingling, that could unknowingly trigger the user to want to have more buzzes and therefore, more restful moments.

“You can get hooked on the buzz without knowing that you’re doing it,” Rao tells KPBS. “And so to the extent that we are associating it with healthful states, that’s a good entrainment. It teaches you.”

But the absence of the buzz can also indicate something. Wearers could notice they haven’t buzzed in a while and realize they should take a moment to remove stress.

Rao said he was driven to create the Bliss Buzzer when he began self quantifying five years ago, a craze popularized by Calit2’s founding director, Larry Smarr. Like Smarr, Rao noticed his lifestyle heading in an unhealthy direction and he decided to track the changes as he altered his diet, began exercising and has become devoted to yoga.

In this video, catch a glimpse inside the Qualcomm Institute, as Rao and Smarr discuss the institute’s accomplishments on it’s tenth anniversary.

Or, get a look inside the Qualcomm Institute yourself at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. Also hear from the self quantifying expert, Larry Smarr, at the conference, held on October 2 through 4 at the Qualcomm Institute and the Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla, California.

Please visit for registration and more information.

Mick Ebeling and the Not Impossible

Mick Ebeling graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in political science in 1992. He worked for FUEL, a motion design studio, and became the CEO of THEY, a cross design platform, before he started his own company and organization.

In 2001, he formed The Ebeling Group, a production company specializing in animation and visual effects. With this company Ebeling was involved in the production of films including, “Stranger than Fiction” starring Will Ferrell, “Kite Runner,” and the James Bond 007 film “Quantum of Solace.”

Ebeling has also founded the Not Impossible Foundation, a nonprofit with the intent to foster the collaboration of ideas and people “dedicated to creating low cost, DIY open-source solutions for real people with real needs.”

The Not Impossible Foundation’s first project began when Ebeling befriended Tempt One, a famous graffiti artist in Los Angeles, diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This paralyzed his entire body, leaving Tempt to communicate only through movement of his eyes.

Ebeling brought together people from Graffiti Research Lab, Free Art and Technology Lab, and openFrameworks to construct a way for Tempt to create his art once again. And on April 10, 2009 Tempt wrote his first piece of graffiti in seven years using the EyeWriter.

Watch Ebeling explain the EyeWriter himself in this TED talk:

The EyeWriter was one of “Time Magazine”’s 50 Best Inventions in 2010. The attention garnered by the EyeWriter gave Ebeling the platform to promote the idea behind the device and the Not Impossible Foundation, that through collaboration and creativity people can accomplish seemingly impossible tasks to drastically improve the lives of others.

In regards to the creation of the EyeWriter, Ebeling is famously quoted saying, “If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”

Don’t miss Ebeling at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. The conference will take place on October 2 through 4 at Scripps Seaside Forum and the Qualcomm Institute (formerly known as Calit2) in La Jolla, California. For more information on registration and speakers like Ebeling, visit

Laurie Garrett: Polk, Peabody, Pulitzer and Pandemics

Have you heard the latest on the most recent outbreak of bird flu? See what the Council on Foreign Relations’ Senior Fellow on Global Health has to say.

Laurie Garrett is the only writer ever to receive the three “Big P’s” of journalism: the Peabody, the Polk, and the Pulitzer.

Garrett graduated from UC Santa Cruz with honors in Biology; then went to graduate school at UC Berkeley, where she started reporting on science news for KPFA-FM, a San Francisco Bay area radio station. She abandoned her doctoral studies for journalism and in 1977, Garrett won the Peabody Award in Broadcasting for a documentary series she co-produced, called “Science Story”.

After spending a year reporting in foreign hot spots, like the (then) USSR and sub-Saharan Africa, Garrett spent eight years as a science correspondent for Nation Public Radio. Then, in 1988, Garrett went on to the science writing and foreign desks at Newsday, a New York newspaper. In 1996, she received the Pulitzer Award for Explanatory Journalism, amongst many other awards, for her coverage of the Ebola virus outbreak in Zaire. Within the four following years, Garrett was awarded the Polk award twice, first in Foreign Reporting for Garrett’s “Crumbled Empire, Shattered Health” and then in Best Book for Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health.

Garret has written two other best-selling novels, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance and I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks.

In 2004, Garrett left Newsday to join the Council on Foreign Relations. She now runs the Council’s Global Health Program, serving as the Senior Fellow for Global Health.

Hear Garrett’s perspective on pandemics and how this can relate to the latest in bird flu and other outbreaks.

For more of Garrett’s advice on global health, don’t miss this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific. This third annual conference, hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine will be held October 2nd through 4th at the Scripps Seaside Forum and the Qualcomm Institute (formerly known as Calit2) in La Jolla, California.

For more information on registration and speakers, visit

Chris Anderson: Editor, Author, Drone Manufacturer

Last year, The Atlantic Meets the Pacific heard Dr. Eric Topol discuss how technology is making healthcare more personal. This year, The Atlantic Meets the Pacific might get to hear Chris Anderson talk about the personalization of another branch of science: drones.

Anderson studied quantum physics and science journalism at University of California, Berkeley before becoming the editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine from 2001-2012. He has also served as an editor for The Economist and the two scientific journals, Nature and Science. In 2007, he was listed as one of the “Time 100,” the magazine’s compilation of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Anderson is the author of the New York Times best-selling books The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, and Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.

He is now the CEO of 3D Robotics, a company related to, which Anderson also founded.

In this video, watch Anderson give a brief explanation of his newest venture, personal drones.

Chris Anderson will be speaking at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, held at Scripps Seaside Forum and Calit2 in La Jolla, California on October 2nd through 4th. For more information on speakers and the event hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine, visit