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TEDx Brussels - The Event

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12 Universities, 2300 Students

TEDx Brussels has long had the ambition to reach out to students and involve them more in what we do. We've always had a good student presence at the event including both attendees and volunteers. In 2011 we tested a new concept with the VUB in Brussels: that they would show our free webstream live in the the University Theatre while TEDx Brussels was under way at Bozar. It was a huge success with students and professors dropping in and out throughout the day to listen to talks.

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Life Sciences at the X Prize, an interview with Eileen Bartholomew

I wonder if you could tell us briefly about how the life sciences section of the X Prize came about?

The Life Sciences Prize Group is actually the second oldest prize group for the Foundation. In 2006, we launched our second X PRIZE: The Archon Genomics X PRIZE (Presented by Medco).  The Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco® is an incentivized prize competition that will award $10 million to the first team to rapidly, accurately and economically sequence 100 whole human genomes to a level of accuracy never before achieved.

The goal of the Life Sciences Prize Group is to stimulate innovative breakthroughs in molecular biology, stem cell research, bionics, organogenesis, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence in order to improve health care and extend healthy living. The X PRIZE Foundation looks to accelerate the real-world impact of science, technology, and information related to the worldwide optimization of health and the elimination of illness and disease.

What do you see as the main challenges of life sciences over the next 50 years?

The world has seen a century of scientific breakthroughs in health and medicine; much of this has been achieved by great specialization.  However, the complex world of today's and tomorrow's socio-economic-cultural-techno "ecosystem" are creating fundamentally different challenges than those of the past.  Challenges in the next 50 years will be those that require a "big picture" view: childhood obesity, Alzheimer's, patient non-compliance.  We also believe at the X PRIZE that this "big picture" view will require current players in the field of medicine to collaborate in new ways, but also mandate external stakeholders from other and contiguous industries to get involved in addressing these Grand Challenge: IT, telecom, design, etc.

What will the X Prize be giving money to in 2061?

We hope to be enabling the future of regenerative medicine (e.g. organogenesis ), neuromedicine (e.g. early, accurate diagnosis and efficacious treatment of Alzheimer's,), making a difference in global health ( e.g. rapid viral detection & forecasting and vaccine development to strategies to prevent and treat disease in under-served and remote communities), as well as future interventions (e.g. robotic assistants, bionic limbs and exoskeletons, and ever shrinking and more capable devices for nanomedicine)

The X prize is an extraordinary institution, can you see the concept being exported to Europe?

Definitely. In fact, Europe was the birthplace of modern-world prizes, having supported the The Longitude Prize which was a reward offered by the British government for a simple and practical method for the precise determination of a ship's longitude in the 1700s.   We're starting to see a lot of interest and support of the incentive prize model throughout Europe: from government bodies  to non-profit foundations and private enterprise.

How do you think the general public should react to the rapid advance of technology and science?

With deep curiosity! Although most people in the general public (based on research by organizations such as the National Science board) are highly supportive of science & technology breakthroughs, their knowledge of both facts and the scientific process is limited. Many do not have a firm understanding of basic scientific facts and concepts, and even fewer have a firm grasp of what is meant by the scientific process. Part of that problem deals with how and where people receive and interact with scientific information.  A goal of an X PRIZE is not only to encourage scientific breakthroughs but also to engage the general public in a educational dialog about science and markets, and do so not be means of esoteric reports, but in real demonstrations of science and technology.

Eilen Bartholomew will be at TEDx Brussels on November 22

Interview by John Fass

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Come round for dinner

We’re having carpaccio of in-vitro beef on a bed of sliced tomato ketchup followed by inkjet printed sushi and laser baked inside out bread. For drinks we’ve got champagne that changes colour and flavour as the meal progresses, matching itself to each course. At the wilder end of techno-cuisine, chefs are thinking up ever more unlikely uses for technology. Taking it out of the white-coated empirical environs of the chemistry lab and into the sweaty, hot, crowded inner city kitchen. It’s one strand of the kind of future food we may be eating in 2061.

The second strand of future food is the hyperlocal foraged model exemplified by best-chef-in-the-world Rene Redzepi. His chefs scour the local coastline for edible wild food and the menu rigidly reflects what’s available nearby. A scaleable idea for much of Europe and an attractive one considering the stranglehold retail economics has on our fridges and freezers. The fact is that there’s free food all around us, trees dropping their fruit onto city streets for example not to mention the amount of food wasted and discarded by supermarkets and restaurants every day.

In the places where food is a daily problem such as Somalia, Malawi or Sudan however resources are exhausted or abandoned mainly through unrest and civil conflict. There is no free food to be had – anywhere. How to supply the people of these countries with wheat, corn, rice and soybeans (the foods that feed the world) is a challenge the world has been wrestling with for decades. The third version of future food is synthetic nutrition on an industrial scale. Vat grown meat, long lasting food polymers, further genetic modification of grains and purely chemical compounds could go a long way to supplementing sparse diets both as additives and as meals on their own such as those provided for past space missions.

Lab food will need some time to reach mass acceptability but at the high end it’s already happening, trickle down effect and urgent food needs could do the rest. It’s pretty clear that we can’t keep consuming the treasured western diet at present rates in the same form, we’re simply going to run out of water and grazing space for livestock. Terminator genes, monoculture practices and proprietory seed supply has all but destroyed the last vestiges of mom and pop farms. Huge corporate landscapes are the result and they provide the vast majority of what we eat.

Future food needs to be socially responsible, realistically priced and delicious. Get the best food scientists to design new foods, get the best chefs to come up with a global menu, get the best economists to work out a fair distribution system.

You heard it here first.

John Fass

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Bernard Kouchner video

Bernard Kouchner is a French politician, diplomat, and doctor. He is co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) and Doctors of the World. From 2007 until 2010 he was French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs.

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