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  • Andrew Hessel at #BIF2018: At the Intersection of Technology, Business, and Vision
    Andrew Hessel at #BIF2018: At the Intersection of Technology, Business, and Vision
  • Amy Webb & Andrew Hessel | The Genesis Machine | Talks at Google
    Amy Webb & Andrew Hessel | The Genesis Machine | Talks at Google
  • Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel discuss "The Genesis Machine"
    Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel discuss "The Genesis Machine"
  • A drunken walk through science and a backup on a hard drive with Andrew Hessel
    A drunken walk through science and a backup on a hard drive with Andrew Hessel
  • 2016 01 KEYNOTE: Andrew Hessel
    2016 01 KEYNOTE: Andrew Hessel
  • The Next Software Revolution: Life. | Andrew Hessel | TEDxSanFrancisco
    The Next Software Revolution: Life. | Andrew Hessel | TEDxSanFrancisco
  • Nanotechnology & NanoMedicine | Andrew Hessel | Exponential Medicine 2015
    Nanotechnology & NanoMedicine | Andrew Hessel | Exponential Medicine 2015
  • Andrew Hessel: Ethics and Biotechnology
    Andrew Hessel: Ethics and Biotechnology
  • The Golden Age of Genomics - ISHI 2018 Keynote Presentation
    The Golden Age of Genomics - ISHI 2018 Keynote Presentation
  • Writing chromosomes with code
    Writing chromosomes with code
  • Andrew Hessel is Introducing the 2nd Human Genome Project | History NOW
    Andrew Hessel is Introducing the 2nd Human Genome Project | History NOW
  • Simulation #174 Andrew Hessel - Genome Engineering
    Simulation #174 Andrew Hessel - Genome Engineering
  • Exploring the world of synthetic biology and designer viruses - with Andrew Hessel
    Exploring the world of synthetic biology and designer viruses - with Andrew Hessel

Learn More About Andrew Hessel

Imagine being able to genetically engineer any plant, animal, or microbe on Earth and use this capability to create everything from print-on-demand drug treatments, to designer organisms impossible for nature to evolve, to re-booted versions of extinct creatures. According to biotech visionary Andrew Hessel, that future is here now and growing more powerful every day at massive scale. As the foremost pioneer in this mission to synthetically engineer life, Hessel helps leading companies and investors understand the massive potential of what will be the most dramatic scientific breakthrough of the 21st century, and perhaps in history. And in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, his extensive research on viruses enabled him to, with colleagues, design a plan to prevent the next biological war.

As the catalyst and co-executive director of the Genome Project-write (GPW) – also known as the Second Human Genome Project which has grown into an international movement with hundreds of like-minded scientists, engineers, and policymakers working to advance the forefront of genome engineering – Hessel communicates the transformational possibilities for every conceivable industry. GPW will be far more revolutionary than the first genome project because it lays the technical and societal foundations for responsible designer life.

A former researcher with Amgen and Autodesk, Hessel is the founder and president of the startup Humane Genomics, a seed-stage therapeutics company developing customized “3D-printed” medicines for one patient at a time. He calls this the “Netflix” approach, as opposed to the “one-size-fits-none” Blockbuster approach to medicine-making. As the technology for designing and building life continues to advance, even synthetic human genomes will soon come within reach. This merging of computer science and life will transform the world and potentially solve many of the greatest problems humanity faces this century. But these benefits come with some real and very scary risks that are far from being understood or mitigated. His highly-anticipated upcoming book, “Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology” (Public Affairs, February 2022) – co-authored with world-renowned futurist Amy Webb – looks at the promises and perils of synthetic biology including related ethical, political, religious and social issues.

Hessel speaks widely on topics that include cells as programmable living factories, viruses as an emerging software industry, and how to achieve effective biological safety and security. He customizes his presentations for each audience, revealing how his groundbreaking research will be significant to all organizations.

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®.

Andrew Hessel was last modified: July 19th, 2022 by Valerie Reaburn

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Preparing for the Future: How Synthetic Biology Will Revolutionize Business and Society

We are living through an era of profound and rapid change, requiring business leaders and citizens to address unique and pressing challenges. Technology offers much promise, but it must also be kept in check. In this talk, renowned biotech and life sciences visionary Andrew Hessel – a global authority on ethical approaches to synthetically engineering life – explains how synthetic biology and related new sciences could potentially solve or mitigate some of the most critical problems facing humanity, from food scarcity, infertility and species extinction to climate change, chronic disease and viral outbreaks – as long as we ensure it is developed and applied ethically. Drawing from the powerful new book he co-authored, “The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology” (Public Affairs, February 2022), he shares stories and personal anecdotes, reveals fascinating, previously unimaginable innovations that loom on the horizon and explains how synthetic biology is poised to transform business, government and society in ways that can help us create a more sustainable future.

Engineering Life: How Biology Will Be the Defining Science of the 21st Century

The revolutionary technology of the 20th century was digital: the computer and the internet radically changed the way we live, learn, and work. Andrew Hessel says the next leap forward will be far more fundamental; we will be able to synthetically engineer every single species on earth. Following the success of reading the human genome, Hessel is on the cutting edge of writing it. A leading futurist, Hessel presents a vision of how we will all be impacted by the scientific ability to engineer organisms, ensuring greater biological security for all forms of life. As today’s executives focus on existing technology, innovation, and competitiveness in the present, Hessel stands firmly in the future, translating the scientific breakthroughs of tomorrow into economic impacts and implications for businesses. Just as the digital revolution impacted and transformed every business in the world, so too will every industry be subject to the revolution in bioengineering.

Human Bioengineering: The Realization of Personalized Medicine

With more mysteries of the human genome solved, scientists can now embark upon biology’s next frontier: engineering synthetic human genomes. As DNA design, synthesis and assembly technologies advance, Andrew Hessel believes this is possible not in the distant future, but within decades. Already, smaller synthetic genomes are within reach and changing health care, he explains. By synthesizing disease-fighting viruses, we can make cancer a manageable disease. And more broadly, the “one-size-fits-none” method of mass drug manufacturing will give way to personalized medicines, allowing doctors to customize therapies.

In this presentation, Hessel explains how scientists can synthesize DNA to revolutionize drug production and treatment, in language that is easily relatable to a non-scientific audience. Likening the breakthrough to the disruption of the digital economy, he asserts that the “Blockbuster” drug industry of mass retail will give way to a “Netflix” model of personalized streaming of medicines. Scientists increasingly have the means to develop new technologies in conjunction with doctors and medical professionals to optimize individual treatments. Hessel has a clear vision for translating the data about human biology into life-saving action.

Splice of Life

April 2, 2022

The Life-Coder

March 9, 2022

The Age of Reinvention

January 20, 2021

“’The Genesis Machine’ is a very readable story about how the DNA world is shifting from reading the genetic code to writing and editing it. Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel then take the reader on a journey of possible world changing events that could result from this new technology.”

J. Craig Venter, PhD, author of “Life at the Speed of Life” and CEO of JCVI

“This spectacular and highly accessible book clearly and thoughtfully examines the most important revolution of our lives––and of life itself. Understanding how we and future generations will use the tools of synthetic biology to transform the worlds inside and around us is essential to being an informed and empowered person and citizen in the twenty-first century. ‘The Genesis Machine’ is a guide to exactly that and a must-read book.”

Jamie Metzl, member of WHO expert committee on human genome editing and author of “Hacking Darwin”

“You may not realize it yet, but your life—and all of life itself—is about to change. From programmable genes to designer medicines, synthetic biology is going to transform everything. ‘The Genesis Machine’ is a surprisingly intimate, incisive, and readable guide to the opportunities, risks, and moral dilemmas of the brave new world ahead.”

Steven Strogatz, Cornell University, author of “Infinite Powers”

“If future technologies arrive gradually and then seemingly all at once, then the biotech-driven future is poised to arrive in ways that are far beyond the reach of our imaginations and at the same time knocking at our doors right now. Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel offer an essential guide to understanding biotech frontiers, and they outline important questions and approaches to consider now. An essential book for business leaders.”

Beth Comstock, author of “Imagine It Forward” and former vice chair, GE

“’The Genesis Machine’ is a tour de force! Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel masterfully reveal the emerging network of forces—people, labs, computer systems, government agencies, and businesses—that will drive humanity’s next great transformation. Their fascinating (and frightening) conclusions—that the human ecosystem can actually become programmed—will touch every facet of our lives in the future. This brilliant work is an absolute must-read for national security professionals and defense planners who need to understand the complex dynamics at play in the future competition for bio-hegemony.”

Dr. Jake Sotiriadis, Chief Futurist, United States Air Force

“We can now program biological systems like we program computers, with artificial intelligence and machine learning accelerating the speed of innovation and applications of synthetic biology. In an accessible and fascinating narrative, ‘The Genesis Machine’ lays out a roadmap for this interdisciplinary field of synthetic biology that is forever reshaping life as we know it.”

Rana el Kaliouby, author of “Girl Decoded” and deputy CEO, Smart Eye

“Are latest innovations in synthetic biology simply a miracle that ends a crisis or a breakthrough to an entirely new way of living? That’s the question futurist Amy Webb and microbiologist Andrew Hessel reveal for us with this fascinating book. The history of the world is a history of unintended consequences, for better and for worse, and Webb and Hessel capture the coming fusion of tech and biology in vivid detail.”

Ian Bremmer, author of “Collision Course”

“’The Genesis Machine’ is fantastic, explaining how genetic code is the alphabet in which much of the future will be written. Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel have taken the very complicated subject of synthetic biology and made it understandable with sharp prose and sharp analysis that cut through mysteries of science and twenty-first-century humanism.”

Alec Ross, author of “The Industries of the Future” and “The Raging 2020s”

“A look at the coming revolution in biotechnology, with all its possible goods and evils. ‘A great transformation of life is underway,’ write futurist Webb and geneticist Hessel. The rising field of synthetic biology, with its underlying technology of gene editing, will allow for numerous things that do not yet exist, including the ability to sequence the genome of a virus nearly immediately, affording scientists a vast library of viruses that will provide the wherewithal to “cure any genetic disease in humankind.” That revolution, the authors write, will remake food, energy, transportation, the supply chain, and commerce as a whole. Granted, write Webb and Hessel, this is a vast Pandora’s box. Synthetic biology is largely the province of corporations and governments in the developed world, and it is not outside the realm of reason to think that a corporation might maximize profit or a government, political gain through its ability to control the food supply and indeed the genetic library of the planet. The problem, as the authors note in deeply researched but accessible prose, is that there is little in the way of coherence in terms of international agreements or “consensus on the acceptable circumstances under which humans should manipulate human, animal, or plant life.” Part of that problem is the generally laissez faire attitude of some governments, especially the U.S., to develop regulations that “don’t intervene until there’s a problem, so as not to stifle innovations.” Because the current regulatory climate isn’t well structured for future-proofing, one important step is the development of a body of law and convention acknowledging that “this new approach to biology warrants a new approach to regulation,” balancing the public good with scientific and commercial interests. The authors propose planks of a platform to this end while noting the difficulty of reining in tech-driven countries such as China to honor international licensing systems and other controls. A wrinkle on the near future that many readers will not have pondered—and should.”

Kirkus Reviews

“In this thought-provoking introduction to synthetic biology, hope and worry go hand-in-hand when considering the vast potential of biotechnologies (DNA synthesis, genome editing) restyling life and even creating new organisms. And while the ability to transform life at its most fundamental level promises wonderful benefits (the elimination of diseases, an abundant global food supply, environmental assistance), the power to reprogram life raises multiple ethical and moral concerns. Who controls this awesome skill (scientists, governments, or entrepreneurs?) and how? What about cost and equitable accessibility to its medical use, the rush to enhancements, and the specter of eugenics? Genetically engineered twin babies in China, the making of a super rice, a ‘gene drive’ that modifies the genetics of disease-carrying mosquitoes are examples of synthetic biology’s recent feats. Webb and Hessel recount landmark biotech moments, such as bioengineering bacterial cells to produce human insulin, and discuss a variety of molecular biology tools and methodologies, from CRISPR to bioreactors, modern DNA synthesizers, and a digital-to-biological converter. Synthetic biology is breathtaking science, but it is also scary. Who’s in charge, and where are the brakes?”

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