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Real Hackers Program DNA

Location: Crystal Room Level: Novice
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Open source software is widespread. Open source hardware is taking off. Why don’t we have open source wetware? Why can’t I program cells as readily as I can program a computer?

Come learn about synthetic biology, a new area that seeks to make biology as easy to program as a computer. Finally, we’ll talk about the implications of making biology more accessible as a technology. How do we ensure that the community that engineers biology does it for overwhelmingly constructive purposes?

Reshma Shetty

Ginkgo BioWorks

Reshma Shetty graduated from MIT with a PhD in Biological Engineering in 2008 where she engineered bacterial to smell like mint and banana. Reshma Shetty has been active in the field for several years and co-organized SB1.0, the first international conference in synthetic biology in 2004. She spearheaded the use of OpenWetWare, a wiki for life science researchers, as an educational tool when she helped teach an MIT undergraduate laboratory course in synthetic biology in 2006. The course demonstrated how wiki’s can support university education and has served as a model for courses from institutions across the country. She also engineered bacteria to smell like mint and banana’s. Now she and four other MITers have founded a new synthetic biology startup called Ginkgo BioWorks.

Barry Canton

Ginkgo BioWorks

Barry Canton holds a BEng and an MEngSc from University College Dublin in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD from MIT in Biological Engineering. He has published pioneering work on the refinement and characterization of genetically encoded biological devices, building on the lessons of standardization from electronic engineering. His work to produce the first datasheet for a biological device serves as the prototype for device characterization in the MIT Registry of Standard Biological Parts. During his graduate work, he also constructed the first biological “virtual machine” to decouple system operation from the cellular chassis. Barry is also a founder of OpenWetWare, an online community of life science researchers committed to open science. Now he and four other MITers have founded a new synthetic biology startup called Ginkgo BioWorks.

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Picture of Stephen Howard
Stephen Howard
03/12/2009 11:06am PDT

This is the longnow debate I mentioned that covered the safety concerns we talked about in this session:

  • Sun Microsystems
  • Yahoo! Inc.
  • IEEE
  • Make magazine
  • Orange Labs