Juan Enriquez

Co-founder, Synthetic Genomics Inc
Managing Director, Excel Venture Management
Co-author, Evolving Ourselves

A brilliant thinker and entrepreneur unlocking the extraordinary promise of the new life sciences.

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Biography

Juan Enriquez is one of those unique individuals who lives in the future and works on the cutting edge of discovery. He is an active investor in early-stage private companies in the life sciences sector, and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the uses and benefits of genomic research.

Juan has recently coauthored, with Steve Gullans, an electronic book titled, Homo Evolutis: A Short Tour of Our New Species. The book takes you into a world where humans increasingly shape their environment, their own selves, and other species.

His next book, also with Steve Gullans, is Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth (published March 10, 2015). In Evolving Ourselves, Juan and Steve Gullans conduct a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

Bio-science is beginning to affect the way we live, work, and do business, and Juan is an articulate and effective advocate of its promise. Synthetic Genomics, which he co-founded, is a company developing breakthrough genomic-driven solutions for major global issues. They are focused on energy and chemical solutions first but researching a wide range of business solutions in human health (vaccines) and food and water production and the environment.

Synthetic Genomics was a partner and major funder of the J. Craig Venter Institute’s recent breakthrough — the creation of the first synthetic bacterial cell.

In addition to his entrepreneurial work in the life sciences, Juan writes and speaks engagingly about the profound changes that genomics and other life sciences will cause in business, technology, politics and society. He is a sought-after speaker, and his highly-anticipated appearances at TED and other venues are dynamic, funny, insightful, and illuminating. He was named one of two guest curators — both global thinkers (the other is Bill Gates) for the 2011 TED conference.

His work has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Foreign Policy, Science, and The New York Times.

Credentials

  • Co-founder, Synthetic Genomics Inc, a synthetic biology company
  • Managing Director, Excel Venture Management
  • Former Director of the Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project
  • Author of the global bestseller As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth
  • Author of The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future
  • BA, MBA, with honors, Harvard University

Boards

  • Cabot Corporation
  • Harvard Medical School Genetics Advisory Council
  • Synthetic Genomics, Inc.
  • The Visiting Committee of Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center

Government — Prior Positions

  • CEO, Mexico City’s Urban Development Corp
  • Coordinator General of Economic Policy
  • Chief of Staff, Mexico’s Secretary of State
  • Member of the Peace Commission that negotiated the cease-fire in Chiapas’ Zapatista rebellion

Books

Evolving Ourselves

How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth

Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans

“We are the primary drivers of change. We will directly and indirectly determine what lives, what dies, where, and when. We are in a different phase of evolution; the future of life is now in our hands.”

Why are rates of conditions like autism, asthma, obesity, and allergies exploding at an unprecedented pace? Why are humans living longer, getting smarter, and having far fewer kids? How might your lifestyle affect your unborn children and grandchildren? If Darwin were alive today, how would he explain this new world? Could our progeny eventually become a different species — or several?

In Evolving Ourselves, futurist Juan Enriquez and scientist Steve Gullans conduct a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. For example:

Globally, rates of obesity in humans nearly doubled between 1980 and 2014. What’s more, there’s evidence that other species, from pasture-fed horses to lab animals to house cats, are also getting fatter.

As reported by U.S. government agencies, the rate of autism rose by 131 percent from 2001 to 2010, an increase that cannot be attributed simply to increases in diagnosis rates.

Three hundred years ago, almost no one with a serious nut allergy lived long enough to reproduce. Today, despite an environment in which food allergies have increased by 50 percent in just over a decade, 17 million Americans who suffer from food allergies survive, thrive, and pass their genes and behaviors on to the next generation.

In the pre-Twinkie era, early humans had quite healthy mouths. As we began cooking, bathing, and using antibiotics, the bacteria in our bodies changed dramatically and became far less diverse. Today the consequences are evident not only in our teeth but throughout our bodies and minds.

Though these harbingers of change are deeply unsettling, the authors argue that we are also in an epoch of tremendous opportunity. New advances in biotechnology help us mitigate the cruel forces of natural selection, from saving prematurely born babies to gene therapies for sickle cell anemia and other conditions. As technology enables us to take control of our genes, we will be able to alter our own species and many others — a good thing, given that our eventual survival will require space travel and colonization, enabled by a fundamental redesign of our bodies.

Future humans could become great caretakers of the planet, as well as a more diverse, more resilient, gentler, and more intelligent species — but only if we make the right choices now.

Intelligent, provocative, and optimistic, Evolving Ourselves is the ultimate guide to the next phase of life on Earth.

Current Hardcover (March 10, 2015)

PRAISE

“If you think that human evolution occurred only in the past, think again! Evolving Ourselves is a scintillating, witty, and sometimes scary account of how rapidly changing technologies are altering human evolution in consequential ways. The book boldly predicts our species’ evolutionary future.”
— DANIEL E. LIEBERMAN, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University; author of The Story of the Human Body

“A refreshingly human-centered take on the future of nature, Evolving Ourselves shows how natural selection has become a participatory team sport. That’s right: Evolution itself is evolving, human beings are the cause, and we all better wake up and do this more consciously before we domesticate ourselves into extinction.”
— DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, author of Present Shock

“For anyone with an interest in understanding the complexity that defines us as human beings, there is plenty to absorb in the cleverly woven pages of Evolving Ourselves. Written in an engaging and often entertaining style, the book pinpoints the unique situation in which Homo sapiens find themselves: deciding what we become next.”
— DR. LOUISE LEAKEY, Turkana Basin Institute

“How far should we go in our ability to control every aspect of the world we live in, including our own bodies? Evolving Ourselves is a fascinating investigation of the global questions and microscopic details that will decide the fate of the human race.”
— GARRY KASPAROV, former world chess champion

“How big dare we dream? This intriguing, optimistic, and exhilarating book takes us into the laboratories of today’s highly innovative molecular biology to explore the possible futures of humankind. If he were alive today, Darwin would be delighted and astonished by the way his ideas have inspired such creative modern research.”
— JANET BROWNE, author of Charles Darwin: A Biography; Aramont Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

“We are going from evolution by natural selection to evolution by human design. The game has changed, and this book provides the new rules of engagement.”
— PETER H. DIAMANDIS, chairman/CEO, XPRIZE; author of Abundance

“This book will be a long-lived classic; it is what Darwin would write if he were alive today. Few yet comprehend the awe-inspiring nature of synthetic biology and its implications for life on the planet going forward; by providing a simple, no-nonsense, humorous, and somewhat scary framework, Enriquez and Gullans allow all of us to understand the changes we live with every day as we guide, and decide, our own evolution.”
— JAY WALKER, curator of TEDMED

“This book provokes terror and inspiration in equal measure. Terror because humankind has become a potent evolutionary force affecting all life on the planet, including itself. Inspiration because with awareness comes the capacity to direct humanity’s — and the planet’s — evolutionary trajectory. Read this book and you will never think the same way about evolution ever again.”
— PAUL SAFFO, technology forecaster

“Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans convincingly argue that Darwin’s driving force of natural selection no longer holds true in a world where little remains natural and free of the hand of man. Their book raises important questions that we all should consider deeply as individuals, as nations, and as a global community as we venture forth into this next phase of evolution.”
— DONALD INGBER, M.D.,Ph.D., Founding Director, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

“Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Evolving Ourselves is rich in the fascinating details of how we work, how we got there, and how we are changing. Enriquez and Gullans take us down a path of observations and logic that leads to either your grandest hopes or darkest nightmares. Fasten your seat-belts, this rocket is about to take off.”
— MARTIN BLASER, author of Missing Microbes

“Enriquez and Gullans take off all the blinders and explore the myriad, astounding ways we humans are rapidly influencing and shaping, both intentionally and not, our future selves. With mounting knowledge around what makes our species tick, they describe how we’ll have the power to direct our evolutionary path.”
— LINDA AVEY, co-founder 23andMe

“A provocative and sobering vision of the evolutionary forces at work in our modern, post-Darwin world, and the control that humans exert over our genetic destinies. Essential reading for anyone who retains hope that humanity, through shear application of ingenuity, will persevere, survive, and surmount the inestimable challenges that lie ahead.”
— GEORGE DALEY, MD, PhD, Professor, Harvard Medical School

“Timely and exceptionally rich, this book is guaranteed to stimulate reflection on what the new biology means for our species.”
— DR. ERLING NORRBY, Former Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

“Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans brilliantly describe a future of extreme possibility and extreme responsibility. Thinking deeply about the implications of their work improves our chances of creating a desirable version of that future.”
— TIM BROWN, CEO of IDEO, and author of Change by Design

“In a rapidly changing world, considerations of human evolution are rarely taken into account as a critical factor that shapes the immediate future. but Enriquez and Gullans will convince you otherwise. They will make you rethink what constitutes a victory (antibiotics! air travel!) over our natural biological constraints and its unintended consequences.”
— HIDDE PLOEGH, Professor of Biology, MIT and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

The Untied States of America

Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future

Juan Enriquez

How many stars will grace the Stars and Stripes in 50 years?

If you think the U. S. is a static body politic, consider this: No U.S. president has ever been buried beneath the same flag he was born under. The United States is a dynamic, evolving entity and so far, we’ve always added stars. But the United States just might come untied if the forces Juan Enriquez explores in his next book have their way.

These forces multiplied the nations of Africa, pulled apart the former former Yugoslavia and are stretching the United Kingdom. The polarizations revealed by recent national elections are really just the tip of an iceberg floating our way, carried on currents of culture, race, ethnicity, language, politics, demographics, mass communication, and wealth disparities, just to name a few. Juan Enriquez names them all in this riveting book.

Crown (November 22, 2005)

As the Future Catches You

How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health and Wealth

Juan Enriquez

You will never look at the world in the same way after reading As the Future Catches You. Juan Enriquez puts you face to face with a series of unprecedented political, ethical, economic, and financial issues, dramatically demonstrating the cascading impact of the genetic, digital, and knowledge revolutions on your life.

Crown Business (October 16, 2001)

Topics

Juan tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Homo Evolutis

There have been at least 25 prototype humans. We are but one more model, and there is no evidence evolution has stopped. Juan Enriquez will take you into a world where humans increasingly shape their environment, their own selves, and other species. It is a world where our bodies harbor 100 times more microbial cells than human cells, a place where a gene cocktail may allow many more to climb an 8,000 meter peak without oxygen, and where, given the right drug, one could have a 77 percent chance of becoming a centenarian.

By the end you will see a broad, and sometimes scary, map of life sciences driven change. Not just our bodies will be altered but our core religious, government, and social structures as humankind make the transition to a new species, a Homo evolutis, which directly and deliberately controls its own evolution and that of many other species. By the way, these changes are already altering some of the world’s largest companies.

As the Future Catches You

The rise and fall of nations and economies and industries and your own company depends — and has always depended — on how literate you are in the dominant language of wealth generation; that is, in the dominant language used to transmit data over time. Once, that language was hieroglyphics. Then phonetic alphabets and the characters used for Asian languages. Recently, it has been the digital language of ‘1s’ and ‘0s’. Increasingly now, and in the future, the dominant language for generating new wealth will be bio-related, especially the ATCGs of the human genome, and it can be digitized.

In this presentation, Juan Enriquez opens the window onto the genomic future of the next twenty years, and offers this message: Genomics — the code of life — is the language and the code that will drive the economy of the future. Master this language and you will thrive. Fail to become at least literate in this language and you will not survive. Already, of the top five patent categories in the U.S., only one is digital; the other four are bio-related. The digital language is already falling behind.

An orange is really code, biological instructions for making another orange tree. We are beginning to understand this code well enough to rewrite it to specifications. And not just for oranges but for humans, also. Here lies the future of wealth generation and of competitive advantage.

Another metaphor: The single most important map ever created was published on February 12, 2001— the map of the human genome. Maps matter, and this map will radically change the balance of power in the world. It’s still very crude, as crude as those drawn of the new world in the late 15th century, but it’s even more valuable. It leads to a new world whose outlines we cannot even guess. Countries and companies that miss the importance of this map will be navigating in the wrong direction. Countries and companies that learn how to read it will enter that new world.

What will The Century of Biology Mean to the Global Economy?

How extraordinary advances in life sciences are changing the way we live and do business.

Genetics and digital are becoming the dominant languages of this century. The genetic revolution and other technologies will have unprecedented political, ethical, economic, and financial impacts on almost every business. You can begin to see this in both the pattern of mergers and acquisitions as well as new investments. Gene data is already transforming how pharma, biotech, hospital, food, feed, fiber, insurance, chemical, and energy companies do business. This session will map out how these discoveries and applications will change your business and life.

Videos

There have been at least 25 prototype humans. We are but one more model, and there is no evidence evolution has stopped. So unless you think Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern are the be all and end all of creation, and it just does not get any better, then one has to ask what is next? Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans, two of the world’s most eminent science authors, researchers, and entrepreneurs, answer this by taking you into a world where humans increasingly shape their environment, their own selves, and other species. It is a world where our bodies harbor 100 times more microbial cells than human cells, a place where a gene cocktail may allow many more to climb an 8,000 meter peak without oxygen, and where, given the right drug, one could have a 77 percent chance of becoming a centenarian. By the end you will see a broad, and sometimes scary, map of life science driven change. Not just our bodies will be altered but our core religious, government, and social structures as humankind makes the transition to a new species,a Homo evolutis, which directly and deliberately controls its own evolution and that of many other species.

Homo Evolutis

Will our kids be a different species? | TEDx

How do goods ideas become reality? | TEDMed

Juan Enriquez moderates a panel of thought leaders that share key lessons from the trajectory of innovation from start to scale to exit.

Feedback

A major network company:
Resonated, was a hit, very casual, chock full, bursting with raw information. He was swarmed after his talk. A hit!

A major processor technologies company:
Juan was nothing short of fabulous at our event in Boston. I had several attendees tell me that they have an entirely new sense of motivation after having heard him speak. He set the evening into motion with his wonderful style and incredible messages. I even had our [...] team members pinging me the following day, with more of the same comments.

A membership organization and the national voice of independent education:
By far the biggest star of the event.
Sleeper. No one knew him beforehand, but everyone loved him.
So moving, provocative, incredible.
Such a superstar.
They are getting easily 25 emails a day about him.

A premier trade magazine:
Thank you so much for Juan Enriquez. What a gift! What an interesting, thought provoking individual and what a fantastic speech! Thank you so much. We got excellent review from our audience.

A CIO summit:
Speaker & material was spellbinding.
Best speaker (speech) I have heard in my 30 professional years.
The speaker was incredibly interesting & entertaining.

A major insurance company:
They loved Enriquez…he was fabulous, he dazzled the audience, they got received excellent feedback after his talk. The audience thought that they were going to be hearing a boring business speaker and it turned out to be "a nuclear attack"… They will be considering Juan for their fall 2008 conference on Technology.

An industry association:
We’ve been overwhelmed with the response from our directors and the requests for how they can get a copy of your book. It was amazing to me to see an audience of people who actively use genetically engineered products come away with a far greater appreciation for the implications of biotech for the future of the industry.

We especially appreciated your willingness to get to know our audience and incorporating such a strong message about the need for biotechnology for agricultural producers. On behalf of the Board of Directors and participants, thank you for sharing such a compelling message.

Associate Director, CRM, at a major consulting firm:
We had a wonderful program featuring Juan and the feedback was very positive. And, he gets lots of brownie points for mentioning our report twice! Exactly what we wanted him to do.

Frankly, he was so good that we could have reconstructed our program to feature him more than just the brief panel. If we didn't have such a tight timeline with Rudy Giuliani's keynote, I would have liked to have given Juan more air time. He did a terrific job and we'd like to consider him again.

It was a pleasure working with you and your team. The process was quite efficient and made my job a lot easier. Thanks again and I look forward to working with you again in the near future. All my best.

A venture capital firm:
Juan was a huge hit; the people really liked him. He stirred up very good debate and was very interesting. We feel we got everything we bargained for. We're very pleased.

A university audience:
[Juan] was fantastic!! Everyone loved him! Seriously though. I was ready to leave before he started speaking (just because the prior stuff was so long and boring) and was really glad I stayed (which never happens after most speakers!!). He was very intriguing AND entertaining.

An association of industry executives:
Juan rec'd the highest score of speakers at their event — he rec'd a 3.56 (1-4 rating system). His highest scores came from their buyers, which is their targeted audience. Kate had seen his talk from TED and PopTech, and she said by far, he was even better at their event than the other two. She said that everyone was holding on to his every word, that you could hear a pin drop in the room. Juan's message on how innovation (decoding of genes - alpha) continues to be the driver of our wealth growth, offered a very positive outlook during this recession. Please send my thanks to Juan for helping to make their event a huge success.

A global financial firm:
Juan Enriquez was a hit! Our clients were intrigued by his content and felt that his presentation was very relevant to the issues they need to be thinking about as they develop their strategic plans to ensure they are meeting the needs of their plan participants, clients, stakeholders, etc.

An education and research institute:
We could not have been happier with Juan's presentation and with the interest it generated around [the city]. We had over 430 attendees at the Economic Club luncheon and another 300 at the Institute. Hundreds of people from all corners of the community — education, manufacturing, business, government, research — heard him and, I trust, heard the wake up call for our state and our nation.

Thank you for your assistance in coordinating his visit.

The largest non-profit professional association:
Juan was a huge hit and I had many requests for his contact information. Hopefully you will get quite a lot of requests for him from our program. He was in everyones comments throughout the entire conference period. He was the opener and we had 3 other keynotes and he was still the talk on each and everyday. Thank you again. Our organization really had a great experience with Juan Enriquez.

A national association in education:
Dear Juan — All of us at […] deeply appreciate your compelling keynote address earlier this week in Philadelphia. Throughout the conference I heard references to your speech which in many ways became a touchstone for the event

Articles

— Ethos 3
— Popular Science