You’ve heard the news: DNA synthesis and sequencing get cheaper every year. Standardized biological parts and affordable tools mean that you can engineer bacteria in your garage. Cultivated meat is coming to a supermarket near you. The first CRISPR babies will soon be learning to walk.
It’s now easy to imagine a future where we eradicate diseases like malaria, manufacture carbon-neutral plastics, and seed the deserts with drought-resistant crops. But we must also consider futures that include runaway gene drives, laboratory accidents we can't contain, and even the spread of engineered pathogens. We cannot launch new biotechnologies into the world and blindly hope they will disrupt it for the better. We must thoughtfully, collaboratively and creatively face the consequences of our innovation.
Catalyst will be a day of collaborative problem-solving for a broad range of people invested in the future of biotechnology, including synthetic biologists, policymakers, academics, and biohackers. We aim to catalyze a diverse community of forward-looking individuals who will work together to engineer a future enhanced by biology and not endangered by it.
This is an experimental event that hopes to create a context for sharing perspectives, building connections, and sparking collaboration. Expect a mixture of lightning talks, workshops, and structured group problem-solving, as well as space and support for attendees to convene their own meetups and brainstorming sessions.
Catalyst is being organized by a team of PhD students, early-career researchers, and biotechnology professionals, including the organizers behind the East Bay Biosecurity Group. The conference is supported by a grant from the Effective Altruism Long Term Future Fund. We are being advised by Dr. Megan Palmer and Dr. Kevin Esvelt and Dr. Jun Axup. Please contact us if you have thoughts to share.