Speakers explore implications of synthetic biology

The ability to modify or synthesize entire genomes carries significant ethical, social, environmental, and security implications. How should these technologies be applied and who should monitor and govern their use?

To explore the complex set of questions the field of synthetic biology raises, this symposium brought together six subject-matter experts to talk about gene editing, microorganism design, animal modification, transplantation, national security risks the field presents, and more. The speakers provided a broad scientific perspective to facilitate research collaborations and distill the key issues, thereby better informing the decision makers responsible for framing safe and secure laws, regulations, and policies.

2022 HTT Symposium Speaker Bios, Talks

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Watch Drew Endy's Talk at 2022 HTT Symposium

Drew Endy is a bioengineer at Stanford University who studies synthetic biology. His goals are civilization-scale flourishing and a renewal of liberal democracy. Prof. Endy helped launch new undergraduate majors in bioengineering at both MIT and Stanford and also the iGEM — a global genetic-engineering “Olympics” enabling thousands of students annually. His past students lead companies like Ginkgo Bioworks and Octant. He is married to Christina Smolke CEO of Antheia the essential medicine company. Endy served on the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), the Committee on Science Technology & Law (CSTL), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Synthetic Biology Task Force, and the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board (DIB). He currently serves on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Smallpox Advisory Committee. Esquire magazine recognized Drew as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

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Watch Kolea Zimmerman's Talk at 2022 HTT Symposium

Kolea Zimmerman is a Senior Organism Engineer 2 at Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology company striving to make biology easier to engineer. Kolea received his PhD from the department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in 2016 where he used quantitative genetics and high throughput phenotyping to determine the contributions of genetic and epigenetic factors to fungal morphology and fitness. Kolea then joined Ginkgo Bioworks as a member of the High Throughput Screening team, developing high throughput enzyme assays capable of identifying high activity enzymes from large metagenomically sourced libraries. This work included assay development, automation optimization, and writing data analysis pipelines. Next, he joined the Organism Engineering team to spearhead efforts for onboarding diverse microbes to Ginkgo’s high throughput genetic engineering and screening platforms. This has become his focus at Ginkgo, leading projects to engineer microbes never before engineered or only engineered at a small  scale. His work developing these technologies has allowed Ginkgo to harness and enhance the native capabilities of diverse microbes for industrial, medical, and agricultural applications.

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Watch Fyodor Urnov's Talk at 2022 HTT Symposium

Dr. Fyodor D. Urnov is Professor of Molecular Therapeutics in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and Scientific Director for Technology and Translation at its Innovative Genomics Institute. Fyodor trained as an undergraduate in biology at Moscow State University, and then studied the interplay between chromatin and transcription factors for his PhD at Brown University (with Susan Gerbi) and as a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH (with Alan Wolffe).

In his work at Sangamo Therapeutics (2000-16), Fyodor co-developed and co-named human genome editing at native loci with engineered nucleases (2005), and co-led efforts to develop its fundamental toolbox (gene correction, knockout, and integration). Fyodor then led collaborative teams to establish at-scale applications of genome editing for human somatic cell genetics and model animal and crop reverse genetics. Fyodor was a key member of the team that developed the first-in- human application of genome editing (2009), and then led the team that developed a strategy for genome editing in the hemoglobinopathies, sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia, that has yielded sustained clinical benefit for multiple subjects in several ongoing clinical trials. Fyodor co-led efforts to develop the fundamental toolbox of human epigenome editing as a disease therapeutic (2000-2003), and then co-led a team that developed in vivo epigenome editors for Hungington's disease and Tau dementia (2010-2016). 

At the IGI, Fyodor’s focus is on establishing turnkey, scalable editability of the human genome and epigenome for clinical use. He directs the IGI Center for Translational Genomics focused on CRISPR cures for N=1 disease, and leads collaborative teams to first-in-human applications of experimental CRISPR-based editing therapeutics for sickle cell disease, genetic disorders of the immune system, as well as epigenome editing therapeutics for radiation injury, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration.

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Watch Megan Sykes' Talk at 2022 HTT Symposium

Megan Sykes’ research career, during which she has published >470 papers and book chapters, has focused on hematopoietic cell transplantation, organ allograft tolerance induction, xenotransplantation tolerance and Type 1 diabetes. She has developed novel strategies for achieving graft-versus-tumor effects without GVHD following hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). She developed an approach that was evaluated in clinical trials of non-myeloablative haploidentical HCT whose safety and efficacy allowed trials of HCT for the induction of organ allograft tolerance, achieving tolerance in humans for the first time. She has dissected tolerance mechanisms and pioneered minimal conditioning approaches for using HCT to achieve allograft and xenograft tolerance. She developed a method of tracking alloreactive T cells in human transplant recipients and used it and other techniques to investigate T lymphocyte dynamics in the graft and the periphery of human transplant recipients. Her work on xenogeneic thymic transplantation for tolerance induction led, for the first time, to long-term kidney xenograft survival in non-human primates. She developed novel “humanized mouse” models that allow personalized analysis of human immune disorders and therapies. Dr. Sykes is Past President of the International Xenotransplantation Association and was Vice President of The Transplantation Society. She is currently President-Elect of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS). Dr. Sykes received numerous honors and awards, including the Medawar Prize 2018 and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and of the Association of American Physicians.

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Watch Alison Van Eenennaam's Talk at 2022 HTT Symposium

Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam is a Professor of Cooperative Extension in the field of Animal Genomics and Biotechnology in the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis. She received a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and both an MS in Animal Science, and a PhD in Genetics from UC Davis. Her publicly-funded research and outreach  program focuses on the use of animal genomics and biotechnology in livestock production systems. Her current research projects include the development of genome editing approaches for cattle. She has given over 700 invited presentations to audiences globally, and uses a variety of media to inform general public audiences about science and technology. A passionate advocate of science, Dr. Van Eenennaam was the recipient of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 2014 Borlaug Communication Award and the American Society of Animal Science 2019 Rockefeller Prentice Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics. 

Twitter: @BioBeef

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Watch Greg McKelvey's Talk at 2022 HTT Symposium

Dr. McKelvey serves as Assistant Director for Biosecurity at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There he focuses on minimizing risks from catastrophic misuse of emerging biotechnologies. Previously, Greg served as a product manager in the United States Digital Service, where he led the Data & Products team within the COVID-19 Task Force’s Data Strategy & Execution Workgroup. Before entering civil service, Greg led product teams at two healthcare machine learning startups, designing and deploying some of the earliest operational machine learning models into patient-care settings.

Greg trained in Biomedical & Health Informatics, and Occupational & Environmental Medicine at the University of Washington. He holds a masters degree in public health (MPH) from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a doctorate of medicine (MD) from Dartmouth Medical School. He is a 2020 Fellow of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI) at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and was named a 2021 Fellow for Ending Bioweapons by the Council on Strategic Risks.

2022 HTT Symposium Downloads