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Change in leadership, great debates videos online, former Feynman Prize winners create 'elusive' new molecule

Foresight Update 30.01—March 8, 2017
ISSN 1078-9731

Happening Now
  · Change in Leadership
  · New year, new frontiers … new website!

Following Up
  · The results of our Fundraiser Matching Grant are out!
  · The Great Debates videos are online!

Friends of Foresight
  · Former Feynman Prize winner creates ‘elusive’ new molecule

Nanotech News
  · Precisely removing individual atoms with microscope creates novel molecule
  · From de novo protein design to molecular machine systems
  · Two-component, 120-subunit icosahedral cage extends protein nanotechnology
  · Cleanly placing atomically precise graphene nanoribbons
  · Designing novel protein backbones through digital evolution
  · Adding modular hydrogen-bond networks to protein design
  · A brief history of nanotechnology
  · New Funding Opportunity from U.S. DOE
  · DOE office focusing on atomically precise manufacturing

Happening Now

Change in Leadership

Starting immediately we welcome Steve Burgess as new President of Foresight Institute. The organization is incredibly thankful for the work and heart that Julia Bossmann has given to the Institute in her term as President. Please find below a statement from both Julia and Steve to the Foresight Community.

Julia Bossmann’s message to the Foresight Community:

After a joyful year at Foresight Institute, I'd like to announce that I will be transitioning to an advisory role over the next couple of months.

It has been an incredible honor and pleasure to serve Foresight Institute as president. In the last year, we tripled our membership base, doubled the fundraising, launched a new website, hosted popular events, and modernized the organization in ways small and large.

I also started new projects, namely the Foresight Pledge and the Foresight Fellowship. I’m following their execution and I'm excited to see them blossom this year.

My biggest thanks go to co-founder Christine Peterson and the rest of the board for the incredible opportunity to make a difference at this trusted Silicon Valley institution that has been around for many decades.

Allison Duettmann, Maya Lockwood, and the rest of the Foresight team have been an immense pleasure to work with. After everything we've built together, I consider them close friends.

In addition to his responsibilities as an accomplished business owner, Steve Burgess has graciously agreed to serve as president.

Foresight Institute is the leading organization to guide beneficial nanotechnology, which is gaining traction by recent events such as the 2016 Nobel Prize for molecular machines. While continuing to guide the development of transformative technologies for the benefit of all life, Foresight Institute will double down on its focus on nanotechnology such as atomically precise devices and molecular manufacturing.

Steve Burgess’ message to the Foresight Community

Brilliant and beautiful minds. In the decades I’ve been attending Foresight events and assisting with the Institute, that’s what always impresses me the most and gives me the most joy. In its three decades, Foresight has made great strides in bringing awareness of and research into nanotechnology and other transformative tech to university, government, and the public. Its mission is being ever-fulfilled. From a near total unawareness of the field at its start, to the billions of dollars in research and education now invested in the field by nearly every technically-aware government, nation, and numerous companies large and small, Foresight continues to make a dramatic impact on the world and its knowledge base. While we have awarded Feynman Prizes to those who later became Nobel Laureates, we have further to go yet. For instance, we are looking forward to the day when we get to award the Feynman Grand Prize! As for me, getting to play a part with Foresight and its great people is a singular honor that I hope to live up to. I can’t wait.

New year, new frontiers … new website!

Foresight has a new digital face! now redirects to our new website. The legacy pages that keep track of the 30 years since starting the nanotechnology revolution can still be accessed under Foresight Classics here.


The results of our Fundraiser Matching Grant are out!

We are pleased to report that, once again, the Foresight community has rallied to help us reach our annual $40K Challenge Grant. Many new members joined and longtime members stepped up to ensure we reached the goal on time. Our November 19 Foresight Day fundraiser put us over the top and was a great deal of fun also, as you’ll see in the videos described below.

The Great Debates videos are online!

Thank you again to everyone who came to our Great Debates Foresight Day event in San Francisco in November. A recap of what was on our debate-plate:

  1. Tomorrow And the Day After (long-term thinking, X-Risk, Moore’s Law)
  2. Drop Everything to Work on AI? (different approaches, AI safety, predictions)
  3. Life - Longer And Better (longevity, bio & nanotechnology, neuroscience)
  4. Goodbye Nationstates? (blockchain, basic income, alternative societies)

One reporter described the event as “the best curated conference I have ever attended. Each panelist was eloquent and engaging and each session as fascinating and exciting as the one before. An utterly unique experience in all my years of conference-going”. For everyone who couldn’t make it or who would like to rewatch the debates, please find the videos on the event website of our new website here or on our Youtube channel here.

Friends of Foresight

Former Feynman Prize winner creates “elusive” new molecule

Congratulations to Leo Gross, 2012 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize laureate! His team at IBM successfully created a triangulene—a molecule that was deemed impossible to create and that could have important applications in quantum computing. The full Nature article can be found here.

Nanodot Update

Precisely removing individual atoms with microscope creates novel molecule

The application of scanning probe microscopy to building individual molecules on a surface took another step forward with the fabrication of a fragment of graphene that was too reactive to be synthesized using conventional chemistry. Over at Quartz Akshat Rathi describes how "IBM researchers have created an 'impossible' molecule that could power quantum computers" …

From de novo protein design to molecular machine systems

Regular readers will have noticed that the de novo design of proteins not found in nature has become an increasingly active area of nanotechnology research the past several years, including eight advances this past year that we have cited (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). To put this rapid acceleration of progress in perspective, David Baker's group, source of 7 of the above 8 advances, recently published (Sept, 2016) a review "The coming of age of de novo protein design" …

Two-component, 120-subunit icosahedral cage extends protein nanotechnology

Baker Lab researchers have extended their work that we cited last summer assembling a large, stable, icosahedral protein molecular cage to a multi-component icosahedral protein complex. From a University of Washington Institute for Protein Design news release "Designed Protein Containers Push Bioengineering Boundaries" …

Cleanly placing atomically precise graphene nanoribbons

We have been following progress toward using graphene nanoribbons in nanotechnology for nearly a decade, most recently citing "Atomically precise boron doping of graphene nanoribbons". Just published results from Joseph W. Lyding, winner of the 2014 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize, Experimental category, and his collaborators have demonstrated a major step toward integrating atomically precise graphene nanoribbons onto a semiconductor surface. A hat tip to first author Adrian Radocea for sending word of their accomplishment described in this Beckman Institute news release written by Maeve Reilly "Creating Atomic Scale Nanoribbons" …

Designing novel protein backbones through digital evolution

Continuing yesterday's discussion of two complementary approaches to balance designing protein structures with novel functions with designing protein structures with maximum stability, we focus on a method to create novel proteins by stitching together pieces of existing proteins, developed by Brian Kuhlman, one of two co-winners of the 2004 Feynman Prize, Theory category, and his collaborators. From the University of North Carolina Medical School newsroom "Scientists digitally mimic evolution to create new proteins" …

Adding modular hydrogen-bond networks to protein design

Advances last year in the bottom-up design and fabrication of increasingly complex atomically precise nanostrutures were so rapid we were not able to cover as many as we wanted. Before we dive into this year’s advances, we are catching up on some of the important advances we missed last year. Perhaps the most active area of molecular engineering research last year was the de novo protein design area, originally proposed by Foresight co-founder K. Eric Drexler as “a path to the fabrication of devices to complex atomic specifications”. Our most recent post in this area cites five earlier posts last year about protein design.

Continuing our coverage of important advances in protein design, the two co-winners of the 2004 Feynman Prize, Theory category (for developing the Rosetta software suite for biomolecular modeling and design) both reported important protein design advances in adjacent papers in Science last May. A perspective commentary “Inspired by nature” in the same issue by Ravit Netzer and Sarel J. Fleishman of the Weizmann Institute of Science points out that the great success over the past decade of de novo designing proteins that folded exactly as designed and were very stable has not produced all of the “important structural features seen in protein interfaces and enzyme active sites”. They note that computer algorithms like Rosetta used to design proteins optimize stability. “By contrast, evolution selects proteins for their ability to perform a vital molecular function, often at the expense of stability.” They discuss the complementary approaches to this issue taken by David Baker and his collaborators (today’s post) and by Brian Kuhlman and his collaborators (tomorrow’s post). …

A brief history of nanotechnology

Our two most recent posts (here and here) have been about efforts by the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the U.S. Department of Energy to promote atomically precise manufacturing—a specific vision for the future of nanotechnology—a vision upon which the Foresight Institute has been focused since our founding 30 years ago. The vision was far removed from then current laboratory technologies, but those current technologies were entering a period of very rapid progress. Progress in several areas led to very useful functional nanomaterials and nanodevices. Enthusiasm for near-term commercial applications became conflated with a long-term technology vision and combined to bring forth ambitious new funding in the US and elsewhere. The differing visions of what nanotechnology is and can become, and the resulting conflicts over funding and over the public image of nanotechnology, are part of the story of Foresight's first 30 years "Thirty Years of Nanotechnology and Foresight". An engaging perspective on the history of nanotechnology written by W. Patrick McCray, a professor in the history department at the University of California–Santa Barbara, was published by Slate earlier this year as part of its Futurography series: "Gods of Small Things". …

New Funding Opportunity from U.S. DOE

David Forrest, Technology Manager, Advanced Manufacturing Office, U.S. Department of Energy, writes with news of a new funding opportunity at DOE:

Dear Friends and Colleagues who have shown some interest in Atomically Precise Manufacturing (APM),

I am pleased to forward this funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to you from the Advanced Manufacturing Office. The FOA includes a range of topics in advanced materials and processes, and explicitly includes a subtopic on Atomically Precise Manufacturing.

DOE office focusing on atomically precise manufacturing

Longtime Foresight member Dave Forrest has been involved with nanotechnology development since his student days at MIT with Foresight co-founders Eric Drexler and Christine Peterson, and since October 2012 he has been Technology Manager, Advanced Manufacturing Office, U.S. Department of Energy. At Foresight Institute's Breakthrough Technologies for Energy workshop this past spring, Dave spoke about "Progress in Atomically Precise Manufacturing at the Advanced Manufacturing Office". The strategic goals of this effort include developing a suite of manufacturing technologies capable of building a broad range of macroscopic atomically precise products, and transitioning these to commercial practice to transform the U.S. manufacturing base to APM-centric production. The motivation from the standpoint of DOE is to reduce energy use. Current efforts began with a DOE workshop held August 5-6, 2015 in Berkeley, CA "Workshop on Integrated Nanosystems for Atomically Precise Manufacturing". The six plenary presentations that can be downloaded from the workshop web page comprise arguably the best overview of progress toward APM since Foresight Institute and Battelle unveiled a Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems in 2007. When complete, the workshop report is expected to be available from this page. …

Discuss these news stories on Foresight’s Facebook group.

—Nanodot post by James Lewis

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