The Futurists Podcast  - Genesis Machine with- Andrew Hessel

Andrew Hessel, Futurecrafting -

The Futurists Podcast - Genesis Machine with- Andrew Hessel

We delve into the world of synthetic and programmable genetics with one of the world's foremost experts, Dr Andrew Hessel.
We also discuss his latest book The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology and how computing advances that led to gene sequencing are now allowing us to think about editing genetics in the same way we program computers.
What are the implications for humanity as this allows us to radically adapt our biology for new purposes and new futures?
Join us to find out

The key idea of the video is that synthetic biology, including mRNA vaccines and gene editing technologies, has the potential to revolutionize various industries and address global challenges, but it requires broader engagement, regulatory systems, and biosecurity measures to ensure ethical and safe practices. 

Key insights

Synthetic Biology and Manufacturing Innovations

  • 💻 The DNA code is digital, written in molecular bits represented by the letters A, T, G, and C, making it a programming language for biology.
  • 🧬 The connection between Crispr and synthetic biology is that Crispr is a tool within synthetic biology that enables precise DNA editing and manipulation.
  • 🧬 Sequencing DNA is a fundamental process in synthetic biology, as it allows us to convert the chemical information in DNA into electronic bits that can be manipulated on a computer, treating DNA as a programming language.
  • 🧬 Synthetic biology has led to breakthroughs in genetic engineering, including the development of new enzymes, medicines like mRNA vaccines, and new food and industrial materials.
  • 💉 Synthetic biology and genome engineering have the potential to create custom engineered viruses that can target cancer cells, offering a new approach to cancer treatment.
  • 🌱 Synthetic biology has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing by creating carbon-friendly substitutes that have a smaller carbon footprint and can be biodegradable, such as alternatives to plastic.
  • 🦠 The ability to reprogram cells, even simple ones like E. coli, gives us the potential to create new materials and proteins tailored for specific purposes.
  • 🍺 Reprogramming yeast, which is a billion years more evolved than bacteria, can lead to incredible manufacturing capabilities, producing a vast array of compounds beyond bread and beer.
  • 🌱 "I think biology is the only provable sustainable technology."

mRNA Technology and Medical Breakthroughs

  • 💉 The breakthrough of mRNA vaccines is that they utilize the body as a manufacturing plant to produce the spike protein and trigger an immune reaction.
  • 💉 The development of mRNA vaccines, such as the ones by Moderna and BioNTech, was a significant win for humanity as it was developed in a quarter of the time it typically takes to create a vaccine, showcasing the potential of synthetic biology.
  • 🦠 A virus can be thought of as a self-replicating USB stick, delivering a program to hijack cells and reproduce more of itself.
  • 💉 mRNA technology has the potential to target specific cancer cells and deliver a program to shut them down, offering a promising approach to cancer treatment.

Ethical Considerations and Societal Impact

  • 🐶 When our companion dogs receive better cancer treatments than humans, it will revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry's approach to cancer.
  • 🌍 Society needs broader engagement and involvement from individuals to tackle the ethical questions and potential risks associated with enhancing human capabilities through synthetic biology.
  • 🌱 Creating a large buffer space between the natural world and the world of synthetic biology is important to protect and preserve the organisms in the natural world, while allowing synthetic biology to explore and innovate in a controlled and safe environment.


 Questions to inspire discussion

  • How do mRNA vaccines work?

    mRNA vaccines work by programming the body to produce spike proteins, triggering an immune reaction against COVID-19.

  • What is synthetic biology?

    Synthetic biology is the field that aims to program biology similar to a computer, using DNA code to manipulate and engineer organisms.

  • What are the potential applications of synthetic biology?

    Synthetic biology has applications in genetic engineering, medicine (such as mRNA vaccines), food production, and the manufacturing of industrial materials.

  • How can synthetic biology revolutionize manufacturing?

    Synthetic biology can optimize processes, generate less waste, and potentially recycle city waste, reducing dependency on oil and plastic production.

  • What are the potential risks of synthetic biology?

    The potential risks of synthetic biology necessitate the establishment of global regulation and biosecurity measures to address ethical concerns and protect against vulnerabilities.


------------------------------------- 0:46:20 2023-09-30T13:38:55Z


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