EP 12 - Dr. Greg Weiss - Advancing Science to find a cure for Cancer and COVID-19 (Award-Winning Scientist & Entrepreneur)

In this interview, we sit down with him to hear about his story & advancements in his research for a cure for cancer and COVID19,  the future of medical treatments, and his routines.

Who is Gregory Weiss?

Gregory Weiss earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from U.C. Berkeley and Harvard, respectively. As a National Research Service Award fellow, he pursued post-doctoral studies at Genentech. In 2000, he joined the faculty at UC Irvine where his laboratory focuses on the interface between chemistry and biology, including the study of membrane proteins, anti-viral drug resistance, and bioelectronics. Tenured in 2006, he is currently a full Professor. His awards include Outstanding Professor in the School of Physical Sciences at UC Irvine (selected by the graduating students) and Beckman Foundation Young Investigator. Selected by the US NAS to represent young scientists from the US at the World Economic Forum meeting in Dalian, China, he was recently elected Co-Chair of the new Global Young Academy.

Connect with Gregory Weiss

Email: Gweiss@uci.edu 

Transcript

Rishi Sharma: [00:00:00] Hey everyone welcome to take care of today's guest is professor gregory replace the founder of the Weiss lab at UCI and also the cofounder of phage tech and debut biotechnology

[00:00:15] GREG WEISS : [00:00:15] Oh, the other thing I should probably tell you is that they're doing,

[00:00:20] Rishi Sharma: [00:00:20] Hey, everyone, welcome to take care of today's guests. Is Gregory advice the professor at UCI and also the CEO of phage tech and debate and debate, biotechnology.

[00:00:33] GREG WEISS : [00:00:33] I'm sorry to interrupt you.

[00:00:36] Rishi Sharma: [00:00:36] Yeah. Welcome, Greg. Really excited to have you here.

[00:00:39] GREG WEISS : [00:00:39] Likewise, thrilled to be on.

[00:00:41] Rishi Sharma: [00:00:41] So thanks. I just wanted to start the audience, get them a little bit acquainted, of your journey and who you are. So if you could just give them a background, kind of what led you to, go into the field of research, and helped to co-found these companies as

[00:00:54] GREG WEISS : [00:00:54] well. So, well, thank you.

[00:00:58] Thanks again for inviting me to chat about my favorite topic, which is starting companies and talking about. Change in the world. so I got started here in California working, as a student in public schools. And I've been extraordinarily lucky to have lived in California most of my life. But, as a little kid, I wanted to dig up dinosaur bones and I noticed you're wearing a dinosaur shirt today.

[00:01:24] Yes. I love digging in dirt and I love thinking about dinosaur bones and I think dinosaurs are great entry for any scientist anyway. So I rent about being a paleontologist. I told everyone for probably the first 10 years of my life that I'd be a paleontologist. And when I got to Berkeley as an undergraduate, I was probably heading to medical school about that point.

[00:01:45] I got the medic medicine bug and the dream of helping cure people and, take care of their ills was really fascinating to me. But as I started to explore that more, I also realized that I'm a slight germaphobe. I really don't like sick people all that much, and I am not the person that goes running over to take care of them.

[00:02:06] So fortunately around that time I was taking this organic chemistry class and it was mind blowing because. What I was learning was how the electrons work that make life possible. So why do molecules react with each other? Why do they do the things they do in organic chemistry lets us answer those questions.

[00:02:28] Yeah. So I very quickly dropped the medicine side of things with full audits, the organic chemistry side of things. was, very fortunate to work with some amazing people at UC Berkeley. And afterwards I went to Harvard to be a graduate student, where I worked for another really amazing individual.

[00:02:47] And I also met some of my best friends on the planet. there, including my wife, who I met in the lab in the laboratory at Harvard. Then I did a postdoc at Shintech, a biotech company. I wanted to learn this new technique, and the world's expert was at Genentech, so I felt very fortunate to work with him.

[00:03:05] And about six months into my postdoc, he suddenly left to start a small biotech company, and I realized that really I wanted at that. And so at that point, I was facing one of those. Major challenges when this big career challenges. Do I go and start this company with my advisor or do I stick it out at Genentech and continue on the academic path publishing lots of papers.

[00:03:27] So suffice it to say, I stuck out with the academic path. And the reason is I just love teaching. I love standing in front of a classroom. I love talking to people like yourself. I love talking in general about, Thinking about how the world works. So anyway, I stuck with academic path, published about 10 papers in two and a half years, and then got a job at UCI in 2000 where I've been ever since.

[00:03:51] Rishi Sharma: [00:03:51] Thank you for giving that overview. What was it about both organic chemistry and finding out how the electrons work, and then how did that one single thing make you. Propel you to, two, two, one just did out as queer. What was the exact thing that you learned, if you, if you remember that?

[00:04:11] GREG WEISS : [00:04:11] Sure, sure. I think it started to answer this really deep seated question that all of us humans grapple with, which is, what is life?

[00:04:21] How does this stuff work? Why are we living? Why. Do the molecules and the reactions that make life possible, why did those success, why do they actually start? How do they do the things they do? Right? What's caused it? Richard FIMAN called it the wiggle and the jiggle of life. How does that absolutely happen?

[00:04:41] So that's what motivated me and organic chemistry suddenly. Gave me some answers to those questions in a really fundamental way. It was suddenly reducing those really philosophical questions down to, okay, here's the chemistry, here's the physics that underlies them, and here's a foundation that you could use to start to maybe not answer what is life, but at least you can start to define it in terms of physics and chemistry and really tackle the biology in a unique way.

[00:05:12] Oh. And by the way, organic chemistry also gives you a tool to go in and start making changes and curing diseases and developing diagnostic devices and things like that. Things that make the world a better place. So that also addressed my need to, to, to heal people and to help people out of their life's crises.

[00:05:34] So that really excited me. So I think we're going to chemistry. It's just a, a playground, really for answering a whole bunch of challenging questions, and then at the same time, remaking our world to a better place, which is my dream. Yeah.

[00:05:48] Rishi Sharma: [00:05:48] That's fantastic. so just curious to see, since we're in the current times of, Covet crisis right now. if you could just kind of maybe see him talk about a little bit how, the efforts at UCI and overall the community at large, is working towards solving, solving this

[00:06:07] GREG WEISS : [00:06:07] crisis right now. Right. This is a very challenging time. Reach. And I think I'm not alone in, you know, bemoaning our fates.

[00:06:15] This is a very, bad virus that's been let out of the bottle. And, unfortunately it's going to be with us for awhile. So. At first, like everyone, I hunkered down in my house and you know, comforted myself with a big stash of hot side toilet paper and, you know, hope that, this thing would be short.

[00:06:39] But what I realized after about a week of that was, you know, we're going to be stuck with this thing and it's circulating in the population at such a rate. That is going to be very, very hard to track down and eliminate and just allow it to die out. So, fortunately around then, the Dean of physical sciences, I'm in the school of physical sciences.

[00:06:57] James Bullock as the Dean, said that we can reopen our labs if we work on Cove in 19 related research. So my lab. Tory, together with a bunch of others at school of physical sciences started to focus on what can we do to make a difference, to try to improve our situation and harness the considerable power of chemistry and chemical biology and physics to do that.

[00:07:21] So, My lab is focused on diagnostics of their labs are focused on, therapies. And other last bit labs are focused on really basic questions like, how does this thing end up? taking over the immune response. How does it end up, interacting with the immune response, those sorts of questions. So there's actually a really big effort on campus

[00:07:43] Rishi Sharma: [00:07:43] and that effort is focused on treatments.

[00:07:46] Anti-virals what is the solution that you guys are looking to find?

[00:07:49] GREG WEISS : [00:07:49] So my lab is focused on diagnostics. I want to understand and map, antibodies that are responsible for neutralization and then develop diagnostics together with my collaborator, rich Penner. That could. Dairy rapidly. Tell us if you have them or you don't have those neutralizing antibodies.

[00:08:09] That would be incredibly valuable. And then other laboratories, as I indicated, are focused on therapeutics. But then I do want, I don't want to slight the important efforts of laboratories that are focused on really fundamental questions. How does this virus infiltrate the body? And then. Once it's there, why does it cause all these processes, inflammation, et cetera, to run a mock?

[00:08:31] How does that work? How is this virus so much more harmful than other SARS viruses? And we're very fortunate at UCI to have some of the world's leading experts on coronaviruses. And then also viruses in general. UCI is one of the, probably one of the top, I would say 20 places in the country for virus research.

[00:08:49] We have a viral research, At UCI and they're outstanding. They're really good. So their labs are re up and the school of biological sciences just recertifying level three, biosafety level three facility that will allow us to do tissue culture and to do model systems of this virus in a really powerful way.

[00:09:09] So those were all really exciting developments that are taking place.

[00:09:12] Rishi Sharma: [00:09:12] Yeah, that's great. That's a full comprehensive approach towards this. so just taking that into mind, and since you guys. Are in so steeped into the research. you know, the media is always, you know, providing updates on things. What should the audience look at when the media is talking about potential therapeutics or tastes or, or protections in the virus?

[00:09:32] What are the important things to keep in mind as they're processing

[00:09:35] GREG WEISS : [00:09:35] that information? Okay. That's a fantastic question and it's a little hard to answer, but I think the. Answer is general to evaluating almost any science that's in front of you. Yep. so first, has it been peer reviewed? It's been peer reviewed.

[00:09:56] Is it appearing in a journal that has rigorous peer review? And then second, what is the power of a study? Are we talking about a handful of cases? Are we talking about. Thousand cases. And I think we saw some illustration of that today. There was, in the news, there were two studies about rent, severe, Giliad, anti potential antiviral.

[00:10:18] And one study was low power. And, there was one study though it's high power and high power means more patients. better statistics, better robustness. Those are types of things to evaluate. But this is a really tough time because practically every day in the news, there are reports that aren't peer reviewed, right?

[00:10:37] You'll hear about some new antibody test or, you know, there's a breakthrough in this, I would say, It's worth, it's worth learning about those and it's worth getting excited about them because I think all of us could use a little excitement in our lives, but another hand, treat them skeptically with the greatest salt and think about them in terms of, Being updates and a long fight, and we'll know that we're really making progress and your listeners will know that we're making progress when they start seeing stuff coming out. that's appearing in, really solid journals that, Is catching the attention of the top scientists in the country. I think when say Anthony Fowchee is getting excited about it, that's a good song, right?

[00:11:26] When the national Academy of sciences president is starting to talk about something that's a really concise, that's telling you that this is actually really robust stuff, and then everything else, I hate to say it, it's basically the noise is kind of. So the baseline needs to be something that's going to move the needle.

[00:11:44] So we really need high qualities science being done.

[00:11:49] Rishi Sharma: [00:11:49] Thank you. Thank you for bringing that down. I think there'll be a lot of value to the audience, just like ciphering this whole situation. especially so much people, I think fine people, probably their news diet is much higher than normal. So

[00:12:04] GREG WEISS : [00:12:04] you know what's really great is people are looking at some really complicated data.

[00:12:09] Yeah, I have friends who would not, you know, who don't even do their taxes. They're definitely not a numbers people, but every day they're checking the OSI Perona virus site, checking out what the OSI board of health is, stag about numbers of cases, and they're following this and looking very carefully at trends and looking at things like semi log plots and talking knowledge will be about them.

[00:12:30] I think that's been a really useful, aspect of this is that. All of us as news consumers have gotten more sophisticated and that can only be for the better.

[00:12:39] Rishi Sharma: [00:12:39] Yeah. I think it's been a real reinvestment into science generally, and which has, I think, declined over the last several years in terms of people's interest in it, and now I think it's free.

[00:12:49] That's one of the, I guess, bright line, bright signs of this whole thing is that reinvestment and knowledge in science.

[00:12:56] GREG WEISS : [00:12:56] I hope you're right. Reach because. That is the PR, the, the lack of respect for science and, for policy being taken, being directed by science and being guided by science has been the, the source of our problem with this chronic virus.

[00:13:11] And it is also the source of many future damaging problems ranging from climate change to environmental destruction to a bunch of other things where the science is very, very clear. It's been. Looked at in great detail by a number of blood, a large number of different techniques. Yet, we've been unable to make any progress communicating that successfully to policy makers and also to voters.

[00:13:35] And so I hope you're right. I hope this is a silver lining, is that we'll return to our respect for. What are the facts? Say? What does it actually say? Not just what is my guts, but what are the facts? What actually is there? What is real? What could I, if I make a bet on this, will it pay off? Right? What is the actual data it's telling me and if I make this change, how will the data change?

[00:13:59] That would be incredibly valuable.

[00:14:01] Rishi Sharma: [00:14:01] Yeah. No, I'm all for, so just take it back to a, I guess a pre COBIT circumstance. What is, what is vise lab and what do you guys focus on? We're currently at UCI.

[00:14:14] GREG WEISS : [00:14:14] Okay. So I am extraordinarily lucky. I can't tell you how amazing my life has been reached, but I get to work with some of the smartest people on the planet.

[00:14:24] And. I think when I was at genetic tech, I T I alluded to this earlier, when I was thinking about doing it, I want to go to academics. Do I want to stay at biotech? What I realized was if I stand biotech, I'll always be working for someone smarter than me. But if I go to academia, I'm going to have a lab full of people that are smarter than me.

[00:14:42] And so that's what I've always had at UCI. We track some of the world's best people, the very best scientists and people who go on to amazing careers. Anyway, so, our lab is very broad. We have things like clinical experiments that are running where we're doing testing for bladder cancer diagnostic in collaboration with physicians at UCI medical center.

[00:15:06] We have, other projects that are really fundamental biophysics. How do molecules work, how do enzymes catalyze chemical transformations? And we collaborate with physicists at UCI to answer those questions. And then, we have projects that are right at the interface. Based with engineering where we're collaborating with a bioengineer to address, can we develop smart drug delivery systems, systems that work like organs in the sense that they sense their surroundings and then dynamically respond and tweak the conditions and the dosages and constant response to what's happening with the patient's body.

[00:15:44] and then we have a basic organic chemistry. I want to make bonds and I want to make them better. I want to do this because that will give us better ways that they can therapeutics to treat diseases more effectively. And generally speaking, the Weiss lab is centered around cancer and anti cancer research and cancer diagnostics.

[00:16:01] Of course, these days we're a hundred percent all about Covance. But in the past, I was very focused on cancer, because it's one of those major personal motivations that made me into scientist.

[00:16:12] Rishi Sharma: [00:16:12] So you said, when you say it's a personal innovation, is there somebody in your family or somewhere?

[00:16:16] GREG WEISS : [00:16:16] Unfortunately, yes. my father died of lung cancer. it's going on 20 years now, and it's amazing to me because he was a physician, incredibly hardworking man. so busy though that he didn't really take care of his own body and his own life. And, by the time it was diagnosed, it was really too late.

[00:16:39] And, lung cancer at least, is thanks. But what I realized was like, goodness, our diagnostics are really primitive, right? They're going to do this, a chest scan, a x-ray of him to diagnose this thing, and in order to see it on the x-ray, it had to be, you know, two and a half centimeters or something like that.

[00:16:59] Or, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's fine now, fortunately, but you have to wait until it's a lump that you could feel again, two and a half centimeters. Cancer though, is a molecular disease. Long before it reaches two and a half centimeters. Molecules have gone crazy. They've been running around the body, they're present.

[00:17:17] We can find those molecules. We can use that to diagnose the cancer long before it reaches that state. And that's my dream. And that's the singular motivation for my research over the last, many years. it's something that has made me run to work every day. And, we've made steady progress on it too.

[00:17:35] Rishi Sharma: [00:17:35] And if you could just elaborate kind of, on the basics of how, how cancer works in the body and then to the progress that you guys have famous recently.

[00:17:45] GREG WEISS : [00:17:45] Okay, sure. I like to, so, I like to think of cancer as. A ship that's been hijacked by pilot, by pirates. So normally your cells and your body are just going one crate.

[00:17:57] They divide, they, they do whatever they're supposed to do physiologically and then they die at an appropriate time. In the case of cancer, though, the pirates have come on board and they, basically are flogging the captain until the cancer cell is producing more and more copies of itself. And then.

[00:18:16] Growing bigger and bigger and bigger. So cancer is a disease of molecules run a muck that are, hijacking the nucleus and hijacking the machinery of the cell to make additional copies of itself. Now, of course. All those copies are not benign. You know, they start running around the body, they start interfering with other organs.

[00:18:40] or you know, in the case of some cancers, they, they're large enough to, to, push out past the boundaries of the Oregon and start breaking blood blood vessels. Like, and, that's when, that, those, those types of events are, will be associated with all the really bad aspects of cancer.

[00:19:00] Rishi Sharma: [00:19:00] And, and the progress, any progress that you guys have made, at the lab recently.

[00:19:06] GREG WEISS : [00:19:06] Cool. I'm so glad you asked. So we have a paper that's in press at analytical chemistry, where together with Reggie Petter, the electro chemists I mentioned earlier. Yep. We've invented this way of detecting cancer biomarkers in urine in 60 seconds. Okay, so this is leadingly fast. Okay. Think about, say, a home pregnancy test also, it's not 60 seconds.

[00:19:30] Even though decades of optimization have been done on that, we have a fundamentally new process that gets us really fast results, and it's also super sensitive so it can detect. The molecules associated cancer at relevant concentrations in urine. So at con, at the density that is necessary to make a diagnosis.

[00:19:52] And so I'm really, really excited about this. This is a really big breakthrough for us. It's something we've been working on for close to a decade and a half or so, and

[00:20:01] Rishi Sharma: [00:20:01] congratulations.

[00:20:02] GREG WEISS : [00:20:02] Thank you. Thank you. And so when I really, my dream is that people get routinely checked for cancer just by simple urine test.

[00:20:09] Yeah. And if we do that and then we can catch the cancer so much earlier and it's so much more treatable when we catch it earlier, it's less painful for the patient. The physician looks more heroic. everyone wins. It's awesome. You know, families are kept together. All those things that would be.

[00:20:26] That's my dream. That's what makes you money

[00:20:28] Rishi Sharma: [00:20:28] because of the sooner you can find it, the quicker you can treat it, the higher the survival rates.

[00:20:33] GREG WEISS : [00:20:33] So yes, exactly. And the less harsh, the chemotherapy has less hearts, the conditions are for treatment. No,

[00:20:39] Rishi Sharma: [00:20:39] absolutely. Absolutely. And how, how has this, like, if you could just go into a little bit detail and the most.

[00:20:45] Basically possible how this, this test works. Okay.

[00:20:50] GREG WEISS : [00:20:50] Yeah, I'd love to. Okay. Because I should mention that this is the same test that we're developing for COBIT 19 antibodies, and we have a little bit of a twist on that. But, Jen, so just think about a pregnancy test. Okay. So you have this thing, you dip it in urine, and then the urine kind of wicks up through, some sort of absorbent layer.

[00:21:08] And what's happening is then you're, looking for binding to these antibodies. Okay. So in this case, the antibodies are providing your diagnostic ability, but you have to wait for the molecules to bounce through the wicking layer. It's very slow. Okay. In our case, what we do is we, we make a surface, so there's no wicking layer.

[00:21:27] So instead we have the surface and we have these viruses. That are integrated into the surface. So these viruses have a particular shape. That's why we're using them. We're, we're using these harmless viruses that have this long, skinny, two black shape. And so now the viruses can, grab onto these molecules.

[00:21:50] and, when they do it forces apart these, little wires. That, that are molecular and scale. These are like the world's tiniest things. You can't image they really, really small anyway. So, as it forces a part that's buyers, then that that changes the conductance going through this material. So anyway, what we've done is we've combined the waking device.

[00:22:13] Gather with the material to get us the response just a lot faster. So again, it's 60 seconds and I suspect we could push that even further. But for now we're going to say 60 seconds just to be on the conservative. And, and we reported that in a peer reviewed journal. So that's a robust study. And we also looked at a whole bunch of independently fabricated device.

[00:22:33] I just need to get out of the, the sites part of the consistently get the satellite. So we, we fabricated a whole bunch of devices independently. They all work the same. The variance between each device was very, very low to very tight tolerances. Even though these things aren't being manufactured and when we manufacture them, things are going to look better.

[00:22:51] So that's, that's what we're up to.

[00:22:53] Rishi Sharma: [00:22:53] That's fantastic. That's fantastic. and hopefully, you know, cause production and then, you know, we can help to, save hundreds of thousands of people, but

[00:23:04] GREG WEISS : [00:23:04] that's my dream. That's exactly what I want. and, that's, that would be awesome. Oh, I probably also need to disclose something important.

[00:23:12] Co founded a company called, phage tech, which has licensed this device. And so I have a financial interest in the success of this as well. So, I should mention that university of California Irvine has reviewed, I have a plan in place to manage this conflict of interest and UCI has reviewed that plan and approved it in accordance with its conflict of interest policy.

[00:23:34] Rishi Sharma: [00:23:34] Thank you for disclosing that.

[00:23:36] GREG WEISS : [00:23:36] Get this disclosure out of the way,

[00:23:38] Rishi Sharma: [00:23:38] and it's a good transition. Also says, let's say you not only are in academics, you also have helped co found two companies, so maybe you can talk a little bit about phage tech and kind of what, what its purpose purposes. Well. Sure it does

[00:23:50] GREG WEISS : [00:23:50] look too.

[00:23:51] So those little viruses that I described as tubes, those are called phage because they, they're actually bacteria phage because they are viruses that we infect bacteria. So phage tech is all about using those. Bacteria phage in sensors and using these benign viruses that only infect bacteria and putting them to use, for the good side for, right.

[00:24:13] Anyway, so a pH tech is focused on bladder cancer diagnostics and cancer diagnostics in general, but they've licensed the technology from Reggie, myself, and rich and I are the co founders of the company. and, they're located at Irvine. They've recently hired a new CEO who I'm really excited to be working with.

[00:24:33] and it's, it's really cool because they could address the very challenging next stage, you know, so reach when, when I do something in my lab, it's, it's actually, it's. It's really fun. It's discovery mode. You know, we'll go into lab, we'll, we'll zip apart stuff while you get a three D printer involved.

[00:24:54] We'll, you know, do a bunch of stuff, but it's kind of strung together. You know, we'll say a fingernail Polish and use that as an insulator of her leads and things like that. But, you know, a company like Bates tech can take those ideas and then reduce them to engineering. And so as a scientist, it's absolutely thrilling to watch that process of taking science from the bench where it's, everything is pretty creative.

[00:25:17] You know, it's just like just, you know, discover the new thing and then actually turning into something that you can basically have real confidence in going forward and that you can watch and turn into a business and sell and know that every time you sell one of those items. It'll be exactly the same.

[00:25:33] And that's a really challenging problem actually, and it's been really fun to watch and they've made a huge amount of progress on it. That's great.

[00:25:39] Rishi Sharma: [00:25:39] That's great to hear. that the progress is being made. and, if you could just go into a little bit, any, any, see any products that you have put into production with, with the company that people wouldn't

[00:25:52] GREG WEISS : [00:25:52] know.

[00:25:53] So the companies that are early stage and, they're doing clinical testing at a scale that, you know, it was. unimaginable to, an academic researcher. It's just way bigger because you'd have to like make thousands of these devices and that sort of thing. And again, if we're making them on our little bench, at UCI, there's no way we're going to be able to make a thousands.

[00:26:14] So the company is working on that sort of thing. And, they are, starting clinical testing of one of their, first bladder cancer sensors. I would say in like the next three to six months or so. and, they don't have any products just yet, but they have, a real, a really general platform that would allow them to make products and a whole bunch of areas.

[00:26:40] So product number one is going to be bladder cancer. if they connect with larger company that say needs a companion diagnostic for the clinical trial, they detector readily do that sort of thing. And so that's

[00:26:52] Rishi Sharma: [00:26:52] great. That's great. Yeah. Phage tech is not the only company help become found a, as we mentioned earlier, also helped to co-found, DB biotechnology.

[00:27:01] Maybe you could expect, so explained that a little bit and kind of what you guys specialize there.

[00:27:05] GREG WEISS : [00:27:05] Sure. I'd love to. So debut is a company located in San Diego, actually, specifically LA Jolla. Yeah. And, they're focused on continuous flow biosynthesis, which is this really fascinating area. So, let's talk a little bit about how we make stuff.

[00:27:21] Okay. So all the stuff that surrounds your reach is made in really enormous, enormous quantities, right? So, you know, it's not, it's not like, you know, someone's in there mixing the pain to do that. Know, gargantuan scales, and generally speaking, they're made in these big vats. Okay? So that's a traditional way that chemical engineering works.

[00:27:40] Even pharmaceutical Savannah needs giant, giant bats. And, those types of processes are inefficient because the mixing through the fat isn't so great. The, the cost for waste is very high. You know, the sort of inefficiencies, lead to waste. It takes a lot of energy to heat up all that stuff. So there's this area where instead of.

[00:28:01] Building stuff in fats. Instead, we make it in little pipes and we pipe through the starting materials. And as they go through these pipes, they're transformed into the product. But the nice thing about the pipes is the mixing is perfect. The temperature control is amazing. And, specifically we're using enzymes to do this.

[00:28:19] So debut, licensed two technologies from our lab. For attaching enzymes to surfaces and for accelerating enzymes. And it's using that to, to do these things under really mild conditions and aqueous solution in, with no harsh acids or basis, and a room temperature with way, way less waste because enzymes, these are protein catalysts that are found in our bodies that are found in plants.

[00:28:44] Yeah. Those things are like the world's best chemists. They, amazing specificity of a product, so there's less waste there. so anyway, so debut is focused on making fine chemicals, making, beers and wines and other high value beverages, and doing it with, in a greener, cleaner, more efficient matter.

[00:29:08] Rishi Sharma: [00:29:08] That's fantastic. I'm just curious, since you are making. I guess micro micro doses. With the rise of what's come up over the next, I would say 10 years or so of personal, more personalized medicine. This I'm sure ties quite well into that

[00:29:26] GREG WEISS : [00:29:26] absolutely ratio and FDA is pushing us very hard as pushing the whole industry.

[00:29:30] Actually very hard to be with the continuous flow because that will give us the flexibility that we need. To respond to emergencies like this pandemic we're facing or to niche tailor thigs for, one particular case, or, you know, a handful of people, but very rare to disease. And so I think that's one of the most exciting aspects of continuous flow.

[00:29:52] Bio manufacturing is the incredible flexibility. one thing I should say is you can also do this on monster scale, right? You can simply, you know, you can use really big pipes. You can play stuff through, you know, very, very high flow rates. So, I think it is competitive with, batch synthesis. And in some ways it's even better.

[00:30:12] You can do things even faster. Yeah, less energy beads and things like that. So that's a real exciting

[00:30:17] Rishi Sharma: [00:30:17] ability to scale up and scale down basis on the need.

[00:30:20] GREG WEISS : [00:30:20] Yeah, and actually that's one of the challenges as well, because all the mixing is there. A continuous flow works exceptionally well at the scaling up.

[00:30:28] One of the challenges that when you go to bigger. From bigger vats, the scaling becomes harder and harder because we run into all these weird problems about eat, distribution and mixing and this and that, and you know, just like getting stuff in and out of there at the same rates and stuff. But, to just flow, you're just scaling pipes, so it's a lot more scalable.

[00:30:46] Rishi Sharma: [00:30:46] That's great. So I'd just like to move on to the final questions and go through it. So, you know, we go through each of our guests and we break down their habits, routines, rituals that they have. I'm just curious if you could share kind of any habits or routines or rituals that you have in your day to day

[00:31:03] GREG WEISS : [00:31:03] life.

[00:31:04] Okay. well, I have to tell you, I'm very, very habit oriented and I have, very strictly healthy routines. the reason is I just don't have a lot of time. So, the time I spend sleeping has to be very, very efficient. So I spent, so let's just start asleep a lot about sleep. I have a whole system worked out to ensure that my eight hours in bed is spent almost entirely sleeping.

[00:31:27] I don't want to spend any time tossing and turning. So for example, that means. Going to sleep at the same time every night. before Howard, before sleep, all the screens in my house go off and I turn on music and I bring out the cats and we have a cat games. I need to laugh, right? Here's the day. Anyway, so promptly at nine 30, the lights go out.

[00:31:48] I've, Oh, right before going to sleep, I read a book, actual paper book with a kind of an orange light that kind of lulls me a little bit. you know, starting to get. The circadian rhythms into the sleep cycle. and then I hit the bed and I'm asleep in for four to eight minutes, and I monitor all this stuff very closely.

[00:32:07] So. Sleep. I, do things like during the day. I take most of my water intake early in the day, decreasing as the day wears on, so that I'm not going to be waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom a bunch of times because that also right, each part of my eight hours, just recalling back to slave.

[00:32:24] That drives me crazy. Anyway, so, at the end of that, I also, I, we have a lot, we have a number of cats, so I'm surprised they haven't appeared yet, but they're around. So I have to do things like wear a face mask and. Earplugs, to make sure that I'm not getting woken up. Anyway, so long story short, I'm up pretty early.

[00:32:40] Five to five 30. I have a clock that has light, so that you kind of, I kind of gently wakes me up and, I spend, time in the morning, you know. Chores, things like that. And then every single day I work out, so every other day I do cardio. And lately this has meant writing like a hamster on a wheel in my garage on a stationary bicycle.

[00:33:05] And I race on Swift, which is a lot of fun. It's one of these, it's like Peloton. But, with my actual racing bikes, I'm out in the garage for an hour and a half on the other days. I have, I do weight training, but I want to break things up because one of the challenges, you can get into these ruts and it starts to sound like I have a rut, right?

[00:33:24] When I have this very rigid schedule. So what I do is I use a random number generator to generate a page number in this book that I have of workouts. And so every day, every other day when I'm doing these weights, weight training or whatever training, I do a random workout and I try to it. So it lands on a page and I look on the page.

[00:33:43] Usually it's like two or three workouts. I choose the one that's least similar to the one I did last time. Yeah. So I spent, so work out, let's say an hour, hour and a half or so, and Very rejected, again about food, because I have a very sedentary lifestyle, especially these days. So I'm very carefully monetary Kellys.

[00:34:02] But, you know, I like to have a breakfast. It has some protein, very, you know, very careful about that sort of thing. and then after that. Gracious. Just meetings, meetings, meetings. Yeah. That's the good part of the day. Right. I get, I love part of the day where I get to talk to all these great people at UCI, talk to my colleagues at other universities.

[00:34:22] and you know, at the end of the day, I'm back home starting again.

[00:34:27] Rishi Sharma: [00:34:27] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for breaking that down. I think the audience can learn a lot from that, especially the sleep portion.

[00:34:34] GREG WEISS : [00:34:34] sleep is one of my passion, three shutter additive sleeper.

[00:34:39] Rishi Sharma: [00:34:39] and, what does, let's just do one, the next question.

[00:34:42] what does success mean

[00:34:43] GREG WEISS : [00:34:43] to you? Okay, that's a great question. I have different there. My job as a professor, there are many different ways to measure success. The most important thing to me, the single reason why I'm a professor is success is the quality of my students and their success. That's one of the ways that I measure my own success is just watching how well they're doing out on the world and what kind of scientists are they, you know, and I'm so thrilled that, the early students who graduated from my lab or out there now directing chemistry at their companies, they've started companies, they've done amazing things, and it's one of the unexpected perks of my job, actually, is to watch their success.

[00:35:22] So I would say that's the number one. Thing that I, I'm most concerned about is what is the quality, people who are graduating from our lab? And that includes both graduate students and undergraduates. I really want to see them, the really effective thinkers and idea generators, creative individuals in their own right.

[00:35:39] Okay. So, that's one aspect. The other aspect is. This, my science making an impact on society. Okay. And that's a, it goes back to your question earlier, what are the products, you know, what is actually gotten out there? And I'll be honest, we're still at early days and I haven't hit that yet, but that's what, that's the next, marker of success.

[00:35:59] My next milestone. That's the next thing that I really want to do. That's what's driving me these days. or one of the things that's driving me these days. So, that's, that's another aspect of success that I'm really passionate about. And, and then the other thing is I want to generate new knowledge.

[00:36:13] I want, to, to find stuff that no one else has known and put it out there and see how the world reflects on it and what happens. So, in academic terms that needs publishing papers, I live in a publisher, parish world, and that's fine. I love that. I love writing. It's one of my passions. I love communicating.

[00:36:33] So, that happens. We do, we spend a lot of time and that sort of thing. and, other markers of success are a little, More ephemeral. I'm very happy when I get good scores and sleep, for example. I know that's been a, I look at a weekly totals. I look at 30 day moving averages for, heart rates and, weight, just to gauge whether or not my workouts are working successfully.

[00:37:01] I care a lot about, My own creativity and you know, whether I've having enough outlets for it, I like to build things. I like to see that, my projects are getting done. I also, want to see a certain number of proposals got the door. One of the challenges of running a lab like mine is that you constantly, trying to get more funding for it.

[00:37:20] So I want to see that. How much more time do we have to talk about worker six Scott?

[00:37:28] Rishi Sharma: [00:37:28] yeah. Hopefully we can move to the next question.

[00:37:31] GREG WEISS : [00:37:31] It's, I guess the short answer is there's no one marker of success, right, Reese? Yeah. And every single day is a different thing that makes you happy. And I think ultimately that's really what your question is about.

[00:37:43] Like what is it that makes you happy? What is it that makes you feel that you're moving the ball down the field? So you use a sports metaphor, right? And so every single, every single day, we have to find one of those markers that we're making progress on to know that we've made it. And that's the, that's one of the reasons why it's such a long question to answer.

[00:38:02] Rishi Sharma: [00:38:02] Yeah. No, you gave some great answers. so next question. what does personal care

[00:38:08] GREG WEISS : [00:38:08] mean to you? Okay. Yeah. So, obviously a passion, all that you wouldn't know it from my, lack of, of a haircut in the recent times necessitated by the spirit cope in situations. But, okay, so personal care is, dedicating the time to yourself.

[00:38:26] That you need to be successful. You know, not just taking for granted that, you're a machine and you can just, you know, simply water the machine. you know, some food, chow it down as quickly as possible, but also, you know, dedicating the time to, to treat yourself right and also those who surround you, right?

[00:38:47] Because they're part of your ecosystem, right? By taking care of the people around you and, helping them achieve their goals and helping them, you know, be happy and productive. That is part of personal care. So, personal care for me is pretty expensive, I guess. in a more specific context. it includes stuff like, you know, you know, the Bureau moisturizer that I use and things like that, but I think we really should be.

[00:39:12] Thinking about personal care in a much larger context of each of us lives, right? In a not in a bubble. We live in an ecosystem and we need to think about tending to that ecosystem and, thinking about all the elements that add to that ecosystem and trying to maximize that, not simply to take them for granted, but actually think about, okay, so if I make a change over here, if I spend a little bit more time on this one aspect, how is that going to make this other aspect better?

[00:39:38] And how is that going to help the whole.

[00:39:41] Rishi Sharma: [00:39:41] Thank you. I think that's a very complete and holistic answer to, to approach. And so, final question. if you were to have a dinner party, and you can invite three people dead or alive, who would you choose on Hawaii?

[00:39:55] GREG WEISS : [00:39:55] Okay. I hate to do this, but they're going to be mostly scientists at one author.

[00:40:01] Okay. So, so by the way, I was not expecting this question. Okay. So, but I, it turns out it's one of those things I love to think about. So I would definitely love to have a dinner party for Marie Curie. re curiously Alsco a winner of two Nobel prizes in science. only, humans ever do. So. I am blown away by her tribe and her single minded focus and ability to really alter our world.

[00:40:27] Her science was truly revolutionary. I would love to sit down and just pick her brain and talk to her about my projects and see what she thought. And at the same time, learn what was making her rent to work every day. along this lines, I'd love to have a dinner with Richard Feynman just because he's such a quote unquote curious character.

[00:40:47] He is one of sciences. great. Fascinating individuals. And I would just love to spend some time with him, hearing, his ideas and just, you know, reminiscing with, I loved his books when I was a little kid, and I'd love to, to talk to him some more. Now, I should acknowledge there's some aspects of Richard Feynman's character that I find repugnant these days.

[00:41:11] I didn't realize that when I was a little kid, but I do now. you know, he had, Some aspects that do not look good in a modern light, let's just say. Right? And then finally, I would like to have, I'd like to invite, Patrick O'Brian to dinner because he wrote my all time favorite series of books.

[00:41:29] He wrote these 20, 20.5 books about, two individuals. Dr Steven MapMyRun and, captain, Aubrey sailing around the world and going on adventures during the Napoleonic war era. And, dr would jump off the ship at every port of call and find all kinds of interesting natural phenomenon and bring them back on board.

[00:41:55] And, the research that he brought to bear on these characters. It has to be absolutely fascinated. So I would definitely want to have dinner with, with him, because I'd like to just talk to him some more. Now. I understand. I've read, I've read his buyer Griffey I spent some time thinking about him. I understand he wasn't such a nice individual, per se.

[00:42:14] I would expect that to be kind of less banter and more, you know, getting kind of slapped back and, told to mind my own business. But I would still love to talk to the guy who invented my two favorite characters from the church. Okay. Now, how many people can we have at this dinner?

[00:42:33] Rishi Sharma: [00:42:33] All

[00:42:33] GREG WEISS : [00:42:33] right, let's stop there.

[00:42:35] But honestly, I would love to. Yeah. have triple that number and Oh man, that would be a dinner party to remember. Yeah, I definitely make the drinks. I make these Tiki drinks and, I would also insist on, making all the food down to the bread. I love making a sourdough bread. I can, I have the menu all picked out.

[00:42:57] So when can we have this happen?

[00:43:00] Rishi Sharma: [00:43:00] Try our best to make it happen for you. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I just want him to, if the audience wanted to connect you or see any progress that happens with the lab, where should they connect or, and look from further for their

[00:43:11] GREG WEISS : [00:43:11] information requests? G Y S lab.net is a labs website.

[00:43:18] But, you know, if it's something short, I'd be happy to address it. they can just send me an email gys@uci.edu, cheerfully though. I'm super, super busy and it's very unlikely I'm gonna answer your, say personal care questions or something like that. But, you know, if it's a science thing, I'd love to, to try to help out.

[00:43:39] It's, I. Don't mind answering, communicating to the world, anything, about our science that I can help with. So

[00:43:48] Rishi Sharma: [00:43:48] that's terrific. So this has been a great conversation. I think the audience learned a tremendous amount. awesome. Thank you so much.

[00:43:55] GREG WEISS : [00:43:55] Appreciate it. Oh, it's a real pleasure. And, thanks a lot for this great podcast you put together.

[00:43:59] It's really enjoyed listening to your other episodes and as a huge podcast fan, this was a real thrill for me to be on one as well. Okay.

[00:44:08] Rishi Sharma: [00:44:08] Thank you so much. It was a pleasure having you.

[00:44:10] GREG WEISS : [00:44:10] Likewise. Bye.


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