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Join us this week for an extremely interesting conversation with Kent Kemmish, the founder and chief exorcist (yes, exorcist) officer of demonpore, and the creator of the new, and world’s first “molecular” games console, the demonpore 64. This is our first podcast with a member of the molecular programming community who works in industry, and in the startup sector.
At its heart, Kent’s demonpore 64 is a device which utilises solid state nanopores in order to sense its environment at the molecular level. Kent and his team have reduced the cost to manufacture this traditionally lab based and expensive equipment by orders of magnitude.
Kent’s hope is that by making this technology cheap, accessible and gamified, gamers can engage in science and data collection on behalf of scientists. This ought to enable scientists to perform very very large experiments, which would otherwise be impossible. We discuss what a molecular games console actually is, what sort of functionality the demonpore 64 has and how it can bring together academics, game developers, gamers, and citizen scientists in order to solve the world’s biggest challenges.
Kent talks through future games which will be available for the demonpore 64, including Poop of the Gods, 2021: A SARS Odyssey, Genomic Ranger, and Molecules of Mars. These games allow people to explore the molecular mysteries of poop, viral detection, chromosome structure, and martian soil!
We then move on to talk about Kent’s life, from student, to academic, to entrepreneur. Kent talks fondly of his early days working on Drosophila genetics, and later at Halcyon Molecular a startup which was focussed around sequencing DNA with electron microscopy. He talks about how these experiences shaped his worldview around having a much greater impact by working on and caring about scientific tools rather than the science itself, and bringing these tools to the scientists with research questions.
Kent Kemmish is the CEO and founder of demonpore, inc., a biotech startup building a nanopore-based molecular sensor (the demonpore 64) marketed and designed as a gaming console. His early scientific training includes drosophila research (Arizona Cancer Center) and finding enzymes to break down age-related aggregates as part of Aubrey de Grey’s LysoSENS project (work done at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University). He went on to be part of the founding team of Halcyon Molecular, a VC-backed startup developing electron microscopy-based DNA sequencing techniques, and later helped recruit the early team of Synthego, Inc, a biotech unicorn and now a premiere supplier of CRISPR reagents. Before becoming a scientist, Kent’s unusual background included live theatre production as part of the team at Planet Earth Multicultural Theatre in Phoenix, AZ, where as technical director he was involved as a director, actor, writing, and stage manager in more than 50 live stage productions of multicultural, postmodern, boundary-pushing, critically-acclaimed theatrical performances. As a child, Kent’s whole life revolved around programming video games for the commodore 64, a passion he is now revisiting 35 years later working with the game design team of demonpore.
The nanopore cartridge shown around 51:00: