Andrew Hessel, MSc.
iGEM Program Development,
is a consulting biologist and author interested in synthetic
biology and open source biology. DNA is a programming
language that scientists have been working to reverse engineer with
increasing success. Synthetic biology allows forward engineering,
permitting scientists to write code de novo and allowing logical, fully
understandable evolution of biological outputs ranging from single
proteins to, eventually, synthetic cells and synthetic
Andrew advocates the use of open source for writing DNA code. In software development, open source has led to robust code, highly skilled developer communities, and non-monopolistic pricing in other words, good things for end users. If the same results can be achieved in genome engineering, open source could potentially create a more diversified and sustainable biotechnology industry. These ideas are explored in Open Sources 2.0, published by O’Reilly.
He earned his MSc. in bacterial genomics from the University of Calgary in 1995. He joined the Amgen Institute, a 120 person research facility located in Toronto, Canada, as a bioinformaticist and manager. Working as a bridge between the Institute, Amgen Canada, and Amgen Inc. (Thousand Oaks, CA), he facilitated dozens of advanced research projects involving microarrays, genetic sequence analysis, and data mining. Today, the Institute, no longer affiliated with Amgen, is known as the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research. In 2002, he cofounded Miikana Therapeutics and helped create the virtual business model they successfully used. Miikana was sold to Entremed in December, 2005 for $21 million plus milestones.
Since 2003, Andrew has worked to raise awareness about the potential benefits of synthetic biology and open source biology. His efforts have been supported by the University of Oklahoma, the University of Toronto, MIT, and most recently, the Alberta Ingenuity Fund. His ongoing goal is to help create an open source biotechnology company that specializes in individually personalized cancer therapeutics. He finds it amusing that many people think this idea is ludicrous, yet consider $1B and 10 years to develop a new drug perfectly reasonable. Time will tell.
Watch his Google Tech Talk Pimp my Genome! The Mainstreaming of Digital Genetic Engineering. Watch his SENS 3 presentation Synthetic viruses targeting cancer.