Medicine • Biotech • Digital Biology
Andrew Hessel is a futurist and catalyst in biological technologies, helping industry, academics, and authorities better understand the changes ahead in life science. He is a Distinguished Researcher with Autodesk Inc. Bio/Nano Programmable Matter group, based out of San Francisco.
He is also the co-founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, the world first cooperative biotechnology company, which is aiming to make open source viral therapies for cancer.
Trained in microbiology and genetics, Andrew has continually worked at the forefront of genomics, first to read and comprehend bacterial, human, and other genomes and more recently to write them. He believes the technology that makes this possible, called synthetic biology, is revolutionary and that it will eventually surpass information technology (IT) as an economic engine and driver of societal change.
He speaks widely on topics that include cells as living computers, life science as an emerging IT industry, and biological safety and security. Andrew is an advocate of open genetic engineering, believing that the field will increasingly resemble the software industry and give rise to open source, single purpose (app), and freemium applications, and that it will be spearheaded by younger programmer-entrepreneurs. He is active in the iGEM and DIYbio (do-it-yourself) communities and frequently works with students and young entrepreneurs to help them be successful.
Since 2009, Andrew has also been the co-chair of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology at the Singularity University, located at the NASA Research Park in Mountain View, California. There, he educates graduate students and executive participants on the disruptive shifts underway in life science and helps them become actively engaged in these changes.
In November, 2011, he was appointed a fellow at the University of Ottawa, Institute for Science, Society, and Policy, focusing on how next-generation technologies shape society future.
Andrew has given dozens of invited talks related to synthetic biology, for groups that include Autodesk Inc., the FBI, the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit, TEDx, Intel Inc., the New America Foundation, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative, and Statoil.
Biology is a mysterious technology – but not for much longer. We may not have created it, but we’re reverse engineering it faster and faster. Life is quickly becoming understood and programmable. Next-generation, digital biotechnologies such as systems biology and synthetic biology are fundamentally changing the game of R&D so quickly that it’s nothing less than a revolution. The dynamics are global – many countries are participating – and the benefits are potentially universal because life is a very affordable technology. Like computing, modern biotechnology is today no longer restricted to just the largest organizations; it’s a platform technology accessible to virtually anyone willing to learn the ropes. The elimination of barriers is shaking up the classical industry and demanding that everything from intellectual property, investment, and regulation be re-imagined. This talk will provide a framework for understanding biological systems, the recent activities of key individuals and groups working at the leading edge, and examine some of the opportunities, challenges, and bizarre stuff facing us in the years ahead.