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.
His book, with Steve Gullans, is Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth. In Evolving Ourselves, Juan and Steve Gullans conduct a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.
In his most recent book, Right/Wrong: How Technology Transforms Our Ethics (October 2020), Juan reflects on the evolution of ethics in a technological age. He examines the many shifts in the right vs. wrong pendulum are affected by advances in technology.
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. He also coauthored, with Steve Gullans, an electronic book titled, Homo Evolutis: A Short Tour of Our New Species.
- 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
- 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
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.
The Evolution of Humans in the Next Century
The genetics revolution means that life can be thought of as code, according to the futurist and genomics expert Juan Enriquez. As we understand that code, we can rewrite the sentences of life. Vaccines will be produced faster, organs for transplant will be grown on demand and we will be able to edit ourselves genetically. This will lead, said Enriquez, to a system in which people will be able to edit, alter, insert and delete memories because we are “beginning to decode the brain”. The pinnacle of our use of genetic technology could, suggested Enriquez, be in designing an interplanetary species. Earth faces threats from, for example, asteroid impacts, so humans should settle other planets. But as we suffer myriad health problems in space, we must redesign the human being. If we believe in human rights, Enriquez said, we should pursue these efforts to ensure the human race's long-term survival.
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.
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.
Resonated, was a hit, very casual, chock full, bursting with raw information. He was swarmed after his talk. A hit!
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.
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.