EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2023 speaker Andrew Hessel discusses how synthetic biology will help us have greater control over our lives.


In brief

  • Synthetic biology is the intersection of three areas: biology, the ability to manipulate digital information, and our ability to engineer systems.
  • Synthetic biology offers a digital framework that makes it easier to engineer biology and iteratively design, construct and operate on a living system.
  • In development are software, algorithms and AI tools that allow us to interpret genetic code in remarkable new ways.

In June 2023, the world’s leading entrepreneurs gathered in Monaco for EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™, the ultimate global competition for entrepreneurs. Thought leaders from EY Tech University and the EY Luminary Network led interactive “Future of” sessions to discuss critical business challenges and today’s hot-button issues that will greatly impact our collective future. 

Andrew Hessel, Co-founder and Chairman of the Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology and Genome Project-write, spoke on the Future of Humanity. Putting DNA code into a biological system is like planting a seed in soil. That biological system will produce outputs such as food, fuel, or even an entire organism. If you can write DNA, you can engineer anything biological – and today, we have the digital tools to do that and create synthetic biology. Below are key takeaways from Andrew’s presentation.

How can investment in synthetic biology elevate the human experience?

“Manipulating DNA used to be really hard,” says Hessel. “It took special training, special facilities, and it was slow work. Today, we have digital tools. The software is rapidly improving.” Hear more about today’s improvements in biological manipulations.

How will DNA sequencing influence our health futures? 

“I fully expect every baby born will have their DNA fully sequenced. That's going to pay dividends not only in terms of identity and paternity, but to actionable medical interventions at birth to track you through your life.” In this clip, Andrew explains how DNA sequencing technology can help us better understand our health markers.  

How can we reverse disease and aging with DNA engineering? 

“Synthetic biology has created a program that, when injected into your body, turns your body into a pharmaceutical plant, producing the proteins that ultimately immunize you. That's the biggest upshift in vaccine technology in 50 years. This is going to change the way we make most medicines moving forward.” Watch Andrew discuss cancer research and how we are learning to better treat cancer, change aging and make enhancements to our health. 

What are the challenges and benefits humanity will face from biotech innovation?  

“In the future, and possibly the near future, all life is going to be sequenced and banked. We're going to grow more and more of what we need to thrive as a civilization, and we're going to live longer, healthier lives. But it's going to get a little uncomfortable at times as we do this transition.”



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Summary

Life itself is the next software revolution. The powerful convergence of biology, AI, robotics and chemistry now enables living cells to be programmed like computers. It is key to understand the emerging applications and implications of these merged technologies to reshape humans and redesign the environments that we share.

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