Target Health just returned from the annual 2011 TEDMED conference in San Diego, CA, where Juan Enrique was one of the speakers.  Here’s a TR article about more of Dr. Enrique’s interesting points of view.


EmTech: Get Ready for a New Human Species


Now that we can rewrite the code of life, Darwinian evolution can’t stop us, says investor Juan Enriquez.



MIT Technology Review, October 31, 2011, by Emily Singer  —  The ability to engineer life is going to spark a revolution that will dwarf the industrial and digital revolutions, says Juan Enriquez, a writer, investor, and managing director of Excel Venture Management. Thanks to new genomics technologies, scientists have not only been able to read organisms’ genomes faster than ever before, they can also write increasingly complex changes into those genomes, creating organisms with new capabilities.

Enriquez, who spoke at Technology Review‘s EmTech conference on Tuesday, says our newfound ability to write the code of life will profoundly change the world as we know it. Because we can engineer our environment and ourselves, humanity is moving beyond the constraints of Darwinian evolution. The result, he says, may be an entirely new species.

Enriquez is the author of the global bestseller As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth. His most recent publication is an eBook, Homo Evolutis: A Short Tour of Our New Species.

Technology Review senior editor Emily Singer spoke with Enriquez after his talk.

TR: Why do you think there is going to be a new human species?

Juan Enriquez: The new human species is one that begins to engineer the evolution of viruses, plants, animals, and itself. As we do that, Darwin’s rules get significantly bent, and sometimes even broken. By taking direct and deliberate control over our evolution, we are living in a world where we are modifying stuff according to our desires.

If you turned off the electricity in the United States, you would see millions of people die quickly, because they wouldn’t have asthma medications, respirators, insulin, a whole host of things we invented to prevent people from dying. Eventually, we get to the point where evolution is guided by what we’re engineering. That’s a big deal. Today’s plastic surgery is going to seem tame compared to what’s coming.

How is this impending revolution going to shape the world?

Ninety-eight percent of data transmitted today is in a language almost no one spoke 30 years ago. We’re in a similar period now. But this revolution will be more widespread because this is software that writes its own hardware.

People think this technology will just change pharma or biotech, but it’s much bigger than that. For example, it’s already changing the chemical industry. Forty percent of Dupont’s earnings today come from the life sciences. It’s going to change everything; it will change countries, who’s rich and who’s poor. It’s going to create new ethics.

New ethics?

It will change even basic questions like sex. There used to be one way to have a baby. Now there are at least 17. We have decoupled sex from time. You can have a baby in nine months, or you can freeze sperm or a fertilized egg and implant it in 10 years or 100 years. You can create an animal from one of its cells. You can begin to alter reproductive cells. By the time you put this together, you’ve fundamentally changed how you reproduce and the rules for reproduction.

What does it take to make a new species?

We’re beginning to see that it’s an accumulation of small changes. Scientists have recently been able to compare the genomes of Neandertals and modern humans, which reveals just a .004 percent difference. Most of those changes lie in genes involved in sperm, testes, smell, and skin.

Engineering microbes alone might speciate us. When you apply sequencing technology to the microbes inhabiting the human body, it turns out to be fascinating. All of us are symbionts; we have 1,000 times more microbial cells in our bodies than human cells. You couldn’t possible digest or live without the microbial cells inside your stomach. Some people have microbes that are better at absorbing calories. Diabetics have a slightly sweeter skin, which changes the microbial fauna and makes it harder for them to cauterize wounds.

One concern about human enhancement is that only some people will have access, creating an even greater economic divide. Do you think this will be the case?

In the industrial revolution, it took a lifetime to build enough industry to double the wealth of a country. In the knowledge revolution, you can build billion-dollar companies with 20 people very quickly. The implication is that you can double the wealth of a country very quickly. In Korea in 1975, people had one-fifth of the income of Mexicans, and today they have five times more. Even the poorest places can generate wealth quickly. You see this in Bangalore, China. On the flip side, you can also become irrelevant very quickly.

Scientists are on the verge of sequencing 10,000 human genomes. You point out this might highlight significant variation among our species, and that this requires some ethical consideration. Why?

The issue of [genetic variation] is a really uncomfortable question, one that for good reason, we have been avoiding since the 1930s and ’40s. A lot of the research behind the eugenics movement came out of elite universities in the U.S. It was disastrously misapplied. But you do have to ask, if there are fundamental differences in species like dogs and horses and birds, is it true that there are no significant differences between humans? We are going to have an answer to that question very quickly. If we do, we need to think through an ethical, moral framework to think about questions that go way beyond science.




Juan Enríquez was the founding director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School and a fellow at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs. His work has been published in Harvard Business Review, Foreign Policy, Science, and The New York Times. He is the author of As the Future Catches You and The Untied States of America. He works in business, science, and domestic/international politics.

Juan Enríquez is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the economic and political impacts of life sciences. He is currently Chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy LLC, a life sciences research and investment firm.[1]

He has published several key articles including, “Transforming Life, Transforming Business: the Life Science Revolution”, co-authored with Ray Goldberg, which received a McKinsey Prize in 2000 (2nd place). He co-authored the first map of global nucleotide data flow as well as HBS working papers on “Life Sciences in Arabic Speaking Countries”, “Global Life Science Data Flows and the IT industry”, “SARS, Smallpox, and Business Unusual”, and “Technology, Gene Research and National Competitiveness.” Harvard Business School Interactive picked Juan as one of the best teachers at HBS and showcased his work in its first set of faculty products.

The Harvard Business Review showcased his ideas as one of the breakthrough concepts in its first HBR List. Fortune profiled him as “Mr. Gene”. The Van Heyst Group asked him to co-organize the life sciences summit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of DNA. The summit, “The Future of Life”, was sponsored by Time. Seed picked his ideas as one of fifty that “shaped our identity, our culture, and the world as we know it”.

Mr. Enríquez serves on a variety of boards including Cabot Corporation, The Harvard Medical School Genetics Advisory Council, The Chairman’s International Council of the Americas Society, the Visiting Committee of Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center, Tufts University‘s EPIIC, Harvard Business School’s PAPSAC, and the J. Craig Venter Institute.

Juan was also part of a world discovery voyage led by J. Craig Venter, who sequenced the human genome. The multi-stage sailing voyage sampled microbial genomes throughout the world’s oceans. This expedition involved a number of institutions and top scholars including The Institute for Genomic Research, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, The Explorers Club, and Prof. E. O. Wilson. It led to the discovery of an unprecedented number of new species.

He previously served as CEO of Mexico City’s Urban Development Corporation, Coordinator General of Economic Policy and Chief of Staff for Mexico’s Secretary of State, and as a member of the Peace Commission that negotiated the cease-fire in ChiapasZapatista rebellion.

He earned a B.A. and an MBA from Harvard, with honors.



TED Blog

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05 January 2011

Meet TED2011′s guest curators: Juan Enriquez and Bill Gates

This year at TED2011, we issued an unprecedented invitation to two global thinkers: Curate a session of TED. Juan Enriquez (watch his TEDTalks) brings his astonishingly broad perspective on global issues — from the macro to the micro — to Session 9 of this year’s conference. His research and writing makes an excellent case that new bioscience, our new knowledge of our DNA, is going to change our world. And his TED session will carry through that theme in several ways. As he told the TED Blog: “The idea is to combine great science, music, humor, art. It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase some of the world’s great brains and talent.” As he put together the list of speakers for his session, he says, “I was looking for quirky characters, with extraordinary visions, who can make people feel that what they do should make you smile and think.”

TED invited Bill Gates (watch his TEDTalks) to curate a session about his world-changing fascinations. As he told the TED Blog: “One of the fantastic things about my present work is how it puts me in contact with people doing interesting and important work in the areas of global health, technology, education and development. In pulling together the speaker lineup for my session, I’ve invited some remarkable people who have expanded my own thinking on those topics and who are making a real difference in the world. I hope the TED community will enjoy hearing from them as much as I have enjoyed getting to know them.”



Juan Enriquez

Co-founder, Synthetic Genomics Inc.; Managing Director, Excel Venture Management.



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

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. By the end you will see a broad, and sometimes scary, map of life science driven change, a Homo evolutis, which directly and deliberately controls its own evolution and that of many other species.

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 has been 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, Sciences, and The New York Times.

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.


  • Co-founder, Synthetic Genomics Inc, a synthetic biology company
  • Managing Director, Excel Venture Management
  • Founding 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

The revolution

As of 1995, we began to read the full gene sequence of . . .
Bacteria, insects, plants, animals, humans.
It is written in a four-letter code (A, T, C, G) . . .
If you change this code, just as if you change the code in a floppy disk or on a CD . . .
You change the message, the product, the outcome.

We are beginning to acquire
direct and deliberate control
over the evolution of all life forms
on the planet . . .

including ourselves.