Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

Building a beautiful future: Consumer biotechnology and the power of "Wow!"

Keira Havens (Revolution Bioengineering), Nikolai Braun (Revolution Bioengineering)
4:35pm–5:15pm Wednesday, 06/24/2015
Location: Generals Residence
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 2 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

This is a conversation about the future of bioengineering - no technical expertise is required beyond an interest in synthetic biology.


Bioengineering – specifically synthetic biology – has spent a lot of time focusing on the “important questions”: How to help people live healthier lives and do it in a more environmentally conscious way. Plants engineered to have higher yields; to be more nutritious and resistant to pests, droughts, and herbicides; developing new ways to treat cancer and diabetes; reducing disease by engineering sterile mosquitoes; building the basis for a new energy economy – these are just a few examples of the big problems the synthetic biology community is working on.

However, these do not capture the public imagination. It’s difficult to popularize noble causes, even harder to connect those noble causes to a technology people don’t understand and are more than a little afraid of. By making biotechnology explicitly for the consumer, we change this dynamic, giving people a tangible, accessible way to experience the potential of bioengineering to make a more beautiful world.

Beauty captures the imagination in a way that practical and necessary advances can’t. In this talk we’ll explore beautiful biotechnology, focusing on the emerging consumer biotechnology market and the evolving conversation between nature, technology, and society.

  • The Vision – The sustainable future we all want to see
  • The Reality – Where is the science, the technology, and the public perception?
  • Applied biology – The relationship between what we know about biology and how we use it
  • The future of bioengineering – Interdisciplinary research with big implications
  • Navigating a path forward – Accessibility and effective communication
  • Consumer biotechnology – Bringing bioengineering home
Photo of Keira Havens

Keira Havens

Revolution Bioengineering

Keira Havens grew up in Hawaii, where she was fascinated by flowers, bugs, and the ocean. After receiving her bachelor’s in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2004, she accepted a commission in the United States Air Force. She left active duty to pursue a degree in a synthetic biology laboratory and received her M.S. from Colorado State University in 2014. As part of her academic work on detector plants, she encountered an interesting paradox – the same people who disliked agricultural GMOs liked the idea of this applied biotechnology. It was biotechnology that they could see a benefit in, a biotechnology that amazed and delighted. Keira wanted to bring more wonder into the world through science, and so she founded Revolution Bioengineering with colleague Nikolai Braun. Their goal: to make biotechnology beautiful, starting with flowers that change color throughout the day.

Photo of Nikolai Braun

Nikolai Braun

Revolution Bioengineering

Dr. Nikolai Braun grew up in Washington D.C., has a Ph.D. in biophysics, and has worked for over a decade at the forefront of the synthetic biology industry building novel functionality in eukaryotic organisms. An accomplished trail biker and a competitive mountain climber, he is truly in touch with the natural world, which is a vital part of his life. He has deep concern for the welfare of the planet, and the sustainability of human activities.