Transcript: Space4U podcast, José Morey

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Hello. I am Carah Barbarick with the Space Foundation and you’re listening to the Space4U podcast. Space4U is designed to tell the stories of the amazing people who make today’s space exploration possible. Today. We are joined by Dr. José Morey from Liberty Biosecurity. José Morey MD is a fellow of the Eisenhower Foundation and the chief medical innovation officer for Liberty Biosecurity.


Previously, Dr. Morey served as associate chief health officer for IBM Watson Health. He led enterprise-wide research collaborations with partners across the globe to develop AI medical breakthroughs. José also serves on the Forbes Technology Council and holds adjunct professorship of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of Virginia and at Eastern Virginia Medical School.


Dr. Morey is also faculty at Singularity University, where he leads Exponential Technology Innovation and Human Augmentation Curricula. He is an international speaker on AI and technology innovation and has coauthored over 75 abstracts book chapters, peer reviewed articles, and is often featured on Forbes, Univision, CNBC, and NASA 360.


His latest essay, The Future Shock of Medicine, how AI will transform disease, death and doctors was recently reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. He also serves as a mentor for MIT Solve and Ideas, Technology Accelerators, and is considered the first “intergalactic doctor.” Thank you for that José. Thank you, Carah.


I really appreciate it. So let’s start with your lovely auspicious title of “intergalactic doctor.” Were you always interested in that space and medicine connection? Well, the title itself, I always thought it was. It’s an honor, but I thought it, when it first came out and somebody called me that I thought it was kind of funny, to be honest, I read it in an article and I was like, Oh, someone actually sent it to me.


It was a friend of mine. And when I saw that, I was like, that’s, that’s interesting. I didn’t know how to take it, but since then, I’ve, I’ve learned to wear it kinda as a badge. And people, people seem to really enjoy calling me that. So I’ll, uh, I’ll take it. There’s, there’s worst things that could call me.


Right. And as far as the combination, uh, of medicine and space, it wasn’t so much medicine in this space. I think that inspired me medicine as a whole was a unique way. But at least I saw to be able to give back to society. I grew up in Puerto Rico and the concept of, you know, what you could be, uh, was always, at least in the STEM fields was engineer or physician where the, kind of the things that were really pushed by by families.


And in the times that I grew up in Puerto Rico. So medicine out of those two fields were. Or medicine was the way that I thought was the most, the most fulfilling mechanism that I could utilize to give back to society. There’s a unique thing. When you help someone, when you heal someone, the connection between the physician, the patient.


That is you can’t really find it and other, and other fields medicine as a whole or disease as a whole is kind of a great equalizer regardless of age, creed, socioeconomic status, when you’re sick, you’re sick. And when you can heal someone, it’s, uh, it’s a very rewarding type of aid that you can give to them.


So that’s, that’s kinda what inspired me. To kind of follow medicine as a, as a pathway for my own life. And then things transitioned over time. When I saw that there’s still a limitation of what one physician can do with, with their time when it comes to helping people, when you’re in a clinical setting, there’s only so many people that you can help on a daily basis, on a yearly basis or over an entire lifetime.


And I saw technology as really. A way to augment exponentially that drive within me to help other people. So that’s kind of what led me into combining medicine with technology and space in particular, I see as the future for humanity. So I think that one thing as physicians, we. Tend to get caught up sometimes on just what’s in front of us.


Uh, if, you know, if someone has the flu or if someone has a broken bone, we want to focus on that. But I think as physicians, we are, we need to hear a higher calling to really push the envelope for humanity, to help guide humanity to a better tomorrow. And space is where we are going. Space is what’s been calling to us.


Since we evolved from apes. I mean, people have always been looking to the stars and worshiping the stars as, as something greater than themselves. And it’s something innate within us to not just see what’s over the horizon, but see what’s, you know, what’s beyond the sky. So I think it’s, it’s something that really impassioned to me.


And it’s, I see it as a continuum of healthcare. That’s awesome. I mean, I think your, your passion for people just loses out of that where you clearly want to help people, but you’re, you’re doing it maybe in the non-traditional path. And like you said, kind of pushing that envelope. So, you know, and I noticed that in your body, Oh, you talk a lot about kind of your teaching pieces and mentorships and.


That passion and that drive is that kind of the continuation of you helping people the next generation. Uh, absolutely. I see, I see a responsibility there’s that old adage, that to whom much is given much is required kind of concept. And we see all the time, especially as you know, a Latinx in STEM or a Latino in STEM, you don’t tend to see people that look like myself or that have my particular background in the circles that I tend to be in.


And it’s important when you do reach a level of success, regardless of who you are, regardless of where you are, that you try to spend an equal amount or greater amount of time pulling people up and bringing people along with you and ideally pushing them to go beyond what you’ve been able to reach, because at the end of the day, life, life is really what you make of it.


But in my opinion, And what I’ve chosen to make life about is about other people. And you have to be focusing on giving back continually because it’s really more about what you get back and then what you. Than what you take or what you make. So that’s a, it’s a very important factor to be pushing the envelope because we, ourselves, regardless of where we are in, no one is an Island and no one really makes it by themselves.


Everyone stands on someone else’s shoulders, whether they realize it or not. And there’s been a lot of sacrifice that has come before each and every one of us, wherever, whatever station we hold in life. And those that will. Come after us will stand on our shoulders, but it’s our responsibility to help them to get to our shoulders.


So, uh, I have to be constantly trying to give back and push the envelope for the next generation, because in my opinion, both from a socioeconomic status, you know, STEM fields in the future of STEM is, is really what’s going to lift up people’s and I also see science and technology as something that’s a great equalizer when it comes to breaking down barriers and walls.


Um, no matter who you are, how you are, wherever you come from, even if you don’t speak the same language, if you see something that’s so akin to magic, that science can be when it’s so advanced that it really breaks down the barriers that could divide you. If you see a really cool piece of robotics, or if you see a black hole for the first time as we did just recently, um, it can, everyone stops.


And in all, and it doesn’t matter what differences you had. You, you both can respect. That is an amazing piece of human technological advancement. And that’s why I do the things I do when it comes to mentorship. Well, I can personally thank you for the many things. You’ve joined us at the space foundation and mentorship and, and really helping push that.


So. I love how you said really pushing the boundaries and kind of that great equalizer. I can’t agree more. So, so you currently work at Liberty biosecurity, which I would say fits in with kind of all those pieces that you said, especially the pushing the boundaries piece. Um, I love the quote on the front of page of the website is discovery is quite literally in Liberty’s DNA.


Can you give us a little background on what Liberty does? Absolutely. And you hit the nail on the head when it comes to who Liberty is and how Liberty is. I can recall when, when I first met them, I was actually working with NASA iTech, uh, which is an accelerator. Uh, derived from NASA out of headquarters and in conjunction with NIH National Institute of aerospace out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, where they focus on identifying the solutions and the technological gaps that NASA has for humanity to become a multi-planetary species.


And while they’re looking for those technological solutions, they also want something that can have a potential commercial applicability here on Earth for terrestrial use. And that’s where I met the Liberty team several years ago. Now they were coming through with this application that could actually, uh, mitigate radiation exposure.


And I got to meet the team, uh, at that, at that time. And it was an amazing group of individuals, of scientists from all over the world. Uh, PhDs and MDs of renown. Liberty is a founding member of the family of Eden Rock Science. Which is a conglomeration or family of biotechnology companies that are really pushing the envelope of human evolution and of human augmentation through science and technology.


And the Liberty team is not just a group of amazing MDA PhDs, but then you also have an amazing crew of individuals that come from federal services, uh, both military and other agencies. And it’s that unique combination, that unique cross pollination of areas of expertise and areas of prowess that allows the team to innovate and be able to find a unique applicability to novel things such as extreme files, which is really their most dominant domain to be able to utilize.


Those unique combinations in relationships from government and high-level academia and industry, to be able to find these unique organisms and then through their amazing team of scientists that they have, uh, out of Boston, force the evolution of these organisms, to be able to create unique applications.


Both for terrestrial and for space use. So it was at that time that I got to meet them and I was inspired by what they were doing and who they had on their team. And they ended up winning the, that, uh, that year. Uh, I tacked the, one of the top three companies that won for that particular solution that they had.


Yeah. And we kept in contact, uh, for a small amount of time, uh, during. During the first 12 to 18 months. And then eventually, uh, opportunity came up for me to join the team. And I obviously jumped upon it cause it was an amazing group of individuals to, to be a part of. And, and since then, it’s, it’s just been one amazing kind of project after another to be involved with, with this whole team.


So what would you say your role in that very well-rounded team is. My particular role as chief medical information officer, I feel that my greatest strength with the team is being able to be at the epicenter between the scientists, the business folks, and then the clinical folks as well. Usually when you get really advanced, extremely smart people at the same table.


In their particular fields, they usually don’t speak the same language. They speak very unique languages. So I am essentially kind of a translator between all those. Since I’ve played, I’ve been in the hard, hard science and researchers side. I’ve obviously been in the clinical side and then through my past experience, both in industry.


Uh, whether it’s an IBM or, or others, I’ve been able to been been through the business development side as well. So I’m able there to really translate what one side is speaking to the other and help them communicate. And after that really, um, I’m the dumb guy, the tableside just let I let the smarter people just do, do their magic.


And, and I just sit back and watch and mesmerization. Yeah. Somehow I don’t believe the you’re the, you’re the dumb guy at the table. But I love that. So when you’re all at the table and you’re coming up with these solutions, you know, I, I kept hearing that word, the solutions and applications. And what are some of maybe the revolutionary applications Liberty has been able to bring to the terrestrial world.


Well, through our unique relationships that we have, uh, with government agencies, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. end with academic institutions and other private institutions, we have been able to garner and aggregate a plethora of extremophiles that we’ve been experimenting on and working on to develop applications for use here on Earth and beyond.


And some of the ones that we have, uh, go from anything from developing bioplastics and biopolymers and organic to, uh, efflux pump inhibiting type of organisms to. Novel sunscreens and sunblocks and cosmetic organisms LJ-321, uh, which can be used, not just in cosmetics and in sunscreens, but it can also be used in advanced materials: concrete, paints and other industrial applications.


And then we also have our lead classes, drug, which is the LX class A, which is developed from a, a novel extremophile that is able to degrade biofilms. And biofilms is one of the greatest impacts on human health when it comes to infectious disease. Primarily.


And obviously specifically with, uh, bacterial infections, biofilm is something that is at the pinnacle of what causes nosocomial infections or hospital acquired infections. So you think of these infections that people go in and they have your routine surgeries, but then they catch something in the hospital.


Uh, one common bug that people know about a lot is. Um, MERSA, MRSE or methicillin-resistant staph aureus, those types of infections that people tend to get in hospitals, but not just in hospitals, these multi-drug resistant infections or these chronic infections tend to be mitigated or tend to be propagated by biofilm.


And the, our LX class of drugs actually destroys and degrades biofilm to be able to allow. Your standard antibiotics that have not been allowed to actually penetrate the biofilm to be able to take effect. So what biofilm does in general, you think? I like when I, uh, I like to think of it as an M and M, so an M and M has that thick, thick, outer shell, you know, that the candy shell that everybody loves.


And then the inside the chocolate, well, inside that chocolate is really the bacteria and bacteria form. This biofilm that forms like this thick, outer shell and the LX class drugs can actually go and destroy that thick outer shell and allow your standard antibiotics to be able to attack the inner layer of the inner core.


Uh, and that allows you to be able to have your routine antibiotics. Uh, killed the bacteria. That’s been defending itself with this final film. So it really revolutionizes, uh, the antibiotic movement. It’s not a antibiotic itself. It doesn’t kill the bacteria itself. It just destroys the biofilm around it, but it allows your standard antibiotics or antibiotics that.


These, these bacteria have grown resistant to it allows them to be able to now be effective against them. So it helps mitigate those, those aspects. And these kinds of things can be used from anything from like tuberculosis to wound care and it’s, and it’s all types of wounds. You can think of it as being able to reduce infections in your chronic surgeries and plastic surgery and implantable devices, whether it’s ortho know orthopedics or uh, bender ventilator assisted, uh, or associated pneumonias, uh, to line infections from central lines to Cathryn infections, such as with Foley catheters.


And the first line that we’re looking at is for wound management. So wound management, again, it goes from anything from surgery to burns to things like your diabetic foot ulcers.


So yeah, diabetic foot ulcers. Is actually a huge problem. I mean, obviously we know that diabetes is something that is getting worse and worse, uh, throughout the, uh, the more developed world. And even now in the developing world as well, uh, diabetes is something that affects. Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, part of these, you know, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, kind of things go along with diabetes and diabetic foot wounds typically have very high morbidity and very high mortality, because once a diabetic ends up developing foot ulcer or any type of ulcer that often tends to lead to other complications such as amputations.


And once you have amputation occur, it decreases mobility, which then is this, this horrific, you know, negative feedback loop where things should go downhill and eventually it leads to mortality.


So what we’ve been able to find is that our. LX class drug, uh, can actually destroy these biofilms in these wounds, uh, and allows the typical antibiotics to then help the wound, uh, the grade, the bacteria, and help the wound heal at a faster, at a faster rate.


So we’re going right now through the process to get our phase one. Uh, FDA approval process, uh, to start beginning human safety trials very soon. How, I mean, that sounds so simple and yet so important too. So many aspects of healthcare. So congratulations on making it to phase one. I excited about that. Thank you. Yeah, well, we’re still, it’s a work in progress and it’s a big team effort, but you know, it’s all, uh, it’s everyone rowing together in the same direction.


And it’s it’s, every process is challenging and there’s, there’s nothing, nothing in life that’s worth doing is easy. Um, it’s amazing to see so many smart people, you know, put their oars in the water and row in the same direction to not just, not just do anything, but do something very special and something very special for humanity.


And that’s, that’s really what the Liberty team is doing, uh, from, from top to bottom. So it’s inspiring to be a part of the team. I can see why I’m in the, it’s so clear. You’re striving towards this goal of helping humanity.


So I heard you mention LJ-321. Can you explain that one a little bit more for us? Sure. Absolutely. So LJ-321 or 321, however you like to pronounce it. And it’s a, it’s a very unique organism. Uh, it’s actually a bacillus Pomalyst that was originally discovered by NASA and it was.


And argue need collaboration with NASA planetary protection program that, uh, has allowed us to get to where we have gone to, to this point. So this, uh, bacillus was actually found through their mechanisms of sterility. So yeah. The NASA JPL has this planetary defense program, which they do a lot of things.


I think the, the, one of the one that most people tend to know about is, uh, being able to identify which asteroids might be coming towards Earth to be able to gauge whether things have to. Um, be implemented to take them out or, or whatnot, but they do a lot of other things when it comes to planetary defense.


Uh, one of the things that they have to focus on is this concept of forward and backward contamination. So as we become a multi-planetary species and as we go out into other celestial bodies, we have to be aware of the fact that. We take a bacterial ecosystem, uh, and a viral ecosystem with us. Um, so we have to be careful when we go to these other celestial bodies that we don’t contaminate the natural flora that may might be on there, both so that we don’t send an invasive species that could potentially destroy planet’s natural ecosystem.


But also so that when we returned samples and that’s really where this first came from when we returned samples from a place such as Mars, uh, which is, uh, on the docket to be done relatively soon, that if we do find bacteria or viruses, uh, in those samples that we can truly identify that they are an extra planetary bacteria or virus and not something that we just sent up there and contaminated.


So that’s the whole. That’s that’s that concept. And that’s where it was discovered. So typically in the process, uh, NASA tends to sterilize as best they can, the different aspects of the spaceships and of the robotics that tend to go out into outer space. And they do this through various mechanisms. That includes techniques from, uh, vaporous hydrogen peroxide, H2O to, to ultraviolet radiation.


And in these clean rooms. They decided to start evaluating what was, uh, still growing within those, uh, within those clean rooms. So they, they sampled and they found that the vast majority was this type of bacteria, the spore forming bacillus, uh, and they also did similar types of experiments with things that were coming back from the international space station.


And there’s been always known that other bacillus have a lot of survivability when it comes to space environments, such as a bacillus subtlest. But this particular bacteria actually had 10 times more resistance to UV radiation than what was known to, to man to be able to survive. So it was a next generation of bacillus, but this story, we really that’s where it originated.


And that’s where it was first discovered. Five, uh, our team of scientists that were led by two phenomenal scientists, uh, Megan Ribbons and Mikayla McGregor that, uh, are the lead for the expo, uh, exploratory group at Liberty. Have we’re able through forced evolution to take what. Uh, or was originally discovered by NASA to then develop what we have now in this LJ-321 product, uh, to be able to increase the original UV protection, originally UV radiation resistance, uh, to even greater magnitude and been able to grow that exponentially, uh, to what we have today.


And this particular product now, uh, is completely organic, obviously because it’s made from bacteria. Uh, but we found that it has the same, uh, UVA UVB resistance, but to a greater degree, as you would find in your typical, uh, sunscreens, your SPF 50 is we can actually, we actually have a much greater protection of the 50 and 40%.


Protection for UVA and you’d be a UVB. So it’s something that can be used in anything from sunscreens to cosmetics, to, uh, advanced materials and other industrial applications such as paints and whatnot. And the unique thing, especially when it comes to something like a sunscreen. Or a cosmetic, uh, is the fact that it’s, uh, it can be used as a replacement for your toxic oxybenzone, which are in current sunscreens and other products and these toxic oxybenzone there, they’re the things that if you Google them, or if you, if you’ve heard the news recently, there are the things that are being banned in many countries and across the globe due to their effects on health of the Marine and coral reef ecosystem, uh, which have been shown that there there’s a greater decline of coral reefs and other, other Marine ecosystems because of these particular synthetic materials that are being used.


And on top of that, they’ve also been able to. To show that there is hormone disruption to animal reproductive physiology and also human toxicity. And, you know, we, we get so accustomed to putting sunscreen all over our bodies and we tend to forget that the skin is actually the largest organ.


In hinge of your entire body and, and that’s, and a lot of tests have it hadn’t been done, uh, until recently that the fact that the sunscreens are being absorbed into our body. And that’s why there’s, there’s been a lot of, you know, a lot, a lot of, uh, tension between, all right, now, should we be recommending people use sunscreens or not?


Because these are, we obviously know the risk for melanoma and, and that kind of clinical and pathologic risks, but now we’re discovering, Oh, well, we’re actually absorbing these toxic chemicals into our system. And what are the long-term sequel of that? But that’s with, uh, LJ-321, not only do you have an equal or greater benefit to be able to protect from UVA and UVB UVB radiation, but you also have this, this adjunct where you have all these countries trying to, trying to figure out, all right, what are we going to, what are we going to do with these toxic synthetics that we have in the sunscreens, we were trying to protect people from, from cancer, but at the same time, we don’t want to destroy our Marine ecosystem and we don’t want to cause other type of physiologic effects on our, on our society.


So this is the perfect solution to that where, uh, it can be used in replacement and have an equal and or greater effect.


From this, the sunscreen and sunblock component, but have no detrimental effect on the human physiology or the Marine ecosystems. So I mean, this bacteria that’s found on the outside of spacecraft can be used to protect from UV rays. It almost feels like science fiction, but it’s solving this conundrum of health issues and that, that balance you’re constantly trying to weigh.


So that’s awesome. Yeah. Is this kind of in the same process where you’re moving it through the FDA? So it. This is not a drug product, so it doesn’t have to go through the FDA kind of a submission process. This is a different kind of process where there are different, uh, evaluations that have, have to be done.


And yes, those kinds of tests and evaluations are being currently done as we speak. But it’s, uh, essentially it’s, it’s already commercially viable and can be applied to two things as of right now. Congratulations. Thanks. Thank you very much. Excellent. So what do you think the focus will be first for it?


Do you think you’ll pursue the sunscreen route first or, or go multiple routes at one time? We’re looking to go multiple routes at one time. Uh, obviously I think the, the greatest one right now from a human perspective and you talk about, you know, when we first. Uh, initiated the conversation about my background in medicine.


And so I always kind of take that with me in everything I do in all the different projects. So I personally see, uh, the greatest benefit to humanity right now on the immediate is things like cosmetics and sunscreens, but from a business perspective and from an enterprise perspective, uh, we’re seeking different routes, uh, at the same time.


But I feel like those are. Uh, the, the best for humanity right now because of the things that are going on, both from a human physiology perspective, from a climate change perspective, and the fact that we have a solution that’s, that’s been proven by been discovered by NASA and, and been force evolved by our lead scientist.


Um, and now is ready to go. I think that’s the one that. I am most excited about personally, and it definitely speaks to your desire to help people. So yes ma’am. I can see why exactly. Excellent. Well, is there anything else you wanted to share about exciting things that are happening at, at Liberty? Uh, we’re always moving the needle forward.


So if any, if your participants that hear this podcast are interested, please check out our website, Uh, we’re always looking for new and innovative individuals to join the team and partners as well. That would like to move the needle forward with us. Awesome. Thanks for sharing that.


Hopefully someone catches the vibe that you’ve put out there for us. It’s okay. Pretty exciting. Absolutely. Well, thank you for joining us today and sharing your, your deep medical knowledge and all the exciting things happening at Liberty. Thank you so much, Carah. Thank you very much to the Space Foundation and, um, obviously to all that are listening, our thoughts and prayers go out to the first responders and everyone that is being affected right now by the COVID situation where we’re all in it together.


So we’ll get through it together. Agreed. And that concludes this episode of the Space Foundation’s Space4U podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast and leave us a review on Podbean, Apple podcasts, and on Google play.


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Space4U Podcast: José Morey – Intergalactic Doctor