Learn More About Andrew Hessel
Imagine a future where germ detection systems are as ubiquitous as smoke detectors. In this world, the bio-manufacturing of medicines and vaccines at pharmacies and doctors’ offices can quickly and cost-effectively address specific diseases or virus strains. We can also engineer cells to destroy cancer and fight the next viral outbreak before it becomes a global pandemic. In this future, millions of people will program biological machines the way we program computer systems today, creating new foods, materials, and biosystems to meet the needs of billions more.
This is the world we are entering – one that’s on the cusp of the greatest technology shift in history, says geneticist and futurist Andrew Hessel, founder and past president of Humane Genomics and co-executive director of the Genome Project-write (GPW). In his highly engaging presentations, Hessel helps leaders and investors across sectors understand and prepare for emerging opportunities in the biotech space.
A true synthetic biology trailblazer, practicing scientist and biotech industry leader, Hessel’s debut co-authored book, “The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology” (Public Affairs, 2022), details the enormous possibilities on the horizon, while simultaneously addressing the avenues that can lead to the misuse of synthetic biology, touching on potential ethical, political, religious and social issues. An Amazon #1 new release in biomedical engineering filled with personal, eye-opening stories of the impact of biology on everyday life, the book was described as “a wrinkle on the near future that many readers will not have pondered — and should” by Kirkus Reviews. Hessel’s work focuses on improving the human experience, using biology to help prevent harmful viruses, cure diseases and address major issues like food scarcity and climate change. His extensive research on viruses energized him and his colleagues to design a plan to prevent the next biological war.
“It is my firm belief that sustainable synthetic biology applications will create a better world for future generations, which is why I wrote this book,” says Hessel. “Programming biology is going to take us to the next level of manufacturing, recycling and producing new materials that nature gives us the hardware to do, but evolution never selected it to do.”
A sought-after consultant to businesses and governments, Hessel speaks widely on a range of topics including cells as programmable living factories, viruses as an emerging software industry, the ethical uses of bioengineering and how to achieve effective biological safety and security. He sees a near-future where the best long-term data storage format is DNA, which will be kept in physical bio-banks, like the San Diego Zoo’s frozen zoo. As both a scientist and a founder, Hessel’s visionary instincts continue to help steer the direction of the future of biotech, helping leaders to be informed about and prepared for the next innovations on the horizon.
The Future of Everything: Programmable Biology as the Operating System of Cells
Scientists are “writing the operating system for cells,” says Hessel, who highlights how the many advances in synthetic biology will impact every industry. He singles out oncology as a particular area of great hope thanks to the life-saving potential of creating low-cost therapeutics that are tailored to individuals. In addition, bioengineering allows for better control over manufacturing processes, more paths to address sustainability and hunger, and even has applications to the financial service and insurance industries. As people start to live longer, healthier lives thanks to bioengineering, both industries will need to have strategies to adjust their business models.
“Why do we need to synthesize a human genome? We don’t,” explains Hessel in his prescient 2017 TEDxSanFrancisco Talk. “But we are synthesizing viruses and we don’t have things like standards, ethics, international collaborations, funding [and] networks, and we are not communicating well with the public. We need to think about this stuff now, not 10 years from now.”
With his gaze fixed firmly on the future, Hessel has an unmatched ability to guide today’s decision makers toward unimagined future opportunities that will emerge from an area of science, promising to dramatically improve life on Earth for all its inhabitants.
“Biology is the only sustainable technology that we have,” he emphasizes. “You don’t have to mow down a rain forest. You just make the forest work for you. It’s infinitely scalable, it’s not going away, it’s been around for four billion years, and it has a simple programming language that is universal. I think this is the technology that heals our world, meets all of our needs, gives us a better standard of living, and cures our diseases.”
Andrew Hessel is the co-founder of Humane Genomics Inc., which engineers synthetic viruses to target cancer cells. He is the catalyst, chairman and co-executive director of the Genome Project-write / The Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology, an international research and development effort that lays the technical and societal foundations for responsible applications of synthetic biology. Also known as the Second Human Genome Project, its hundreds of scientists, engineers, and policymakers are on the global forefront of genome engineering working to address many of the global problems facing humanity. GP-write is leading the transformation of genome editing into genome writing using a suite of proprietary technologies. Developing a first-of-its-kind computer-aided design technology for genomes, the project works to advance knowledge of genetic diseases, produce novel biomaterials and develop biological solutions.
As an Autodesk Distinguished Researcher, Hessel led a multidisciplinary team exploring computer-aided design and manufacturing for biotechnology and nanotechnology R&D. He conducted state-of-the-art biological research at Amgen Institute and was the co-chair of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology at Singularity University, located at the NASA Research Park in Mountain View, California. He was the co-founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, the world’s first cooperative biotechnology company, which sought to make open-source viral therapies for cancer.
Andrew Hessel is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
Geneticist and futurist Andrew Hessel is a catalyst in biological technologies, helping industry, academics, and authorities better understand and prepare for the changes happening in life science. Co-founder of Humane Genomics Inc., and chairman and co-executive director of the Genome Project-write / The Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology, he’s a key advisor to cross-industry businesses as well as governments and educational institutions on what’s on the bio-technology and synthetic biology horizon and the security, regulatory and ethical considerations that will come along with these breakthroughs. Hessel is available to discuss any or all of the following topics during one-on-one or small group advisory meetings. Each program can be customized to meet the needs and goals of your organization with the added option of meeting virtually or in person.
The Business of Bioengineering and Synthetic Biology
- R&D Opportunities in Food, Cosmetic, Material Science, Energy, Manufacturing and Health Care Industries
- The Coming Bio-Economy
- How Costs and Time-to-Market for Full Genome Synthesis are Shrinking
- Regulatory, Security, and Ethical Components
The Future of Healthcare
- Individualized Targeted Therapies Will Change Health Care
- How Scientists are Writing the Operating System for Cells
- Opportunities for Pharma Companies to Build Better Systems
- How Viruses will be “The Next App Store”
- DNA will be the Data Storage of the Future
- How Physical and Electronic Bio-Banks will be Employed