Trailblazing Women Entrepreneurs
"An Interview with Reshma Shetty, Co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks.
This interview is part of a series on Trailblazing Women role models (Entrepreneurs and Leaders) from around the world and first appeared in the Huffington Post. You have to see what you can be."
Reshma Shetty is a co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism design company building organisms to spec for customers across markets including nutrition, health and consumer goods. The company’s organism engineers work directly with customers including Fortune 500 companies and government entities like DARPA to design microbes for their needs.
Reshma has been active in synthetic biology for over 10 years and co-organized the first international conference in the field: Synthetic Biology 1.0. Forbes magazine named Shetty as one of eight people inventing the future and Fast Company named her one of 100 Most Creative People in 2011. Reshma holds a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT. She is the 2019 recipient of the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture.
Visit the Ginkgo Bioworks website at www.ginkgobioworks.com and follow her on Twitter @reshmapshetty or Ginkgo Bioworks
Who is your role model as an entrepreneur?
My role model is Tom Knight, who was my PhD advisor at MIT and is now a Co-founder with me at Ginkgo Bioworks. Tom is an amazing person — he literally helped to invent the internet and contributed to the rise of the whole computer industry. He lived through the massive transformation where computers went from being available at just a handful of universities in the world to being something that touches people’s lives on a daily basis and makes them better. One day 20 years ago he started getting interested in biology, went back to school taking classes at MIT to learn all about it and ended up inventing a whole new area that is now called synthetic biology. Doing something like that takes a lot of courage and intelligence. Tom has the ability to look into the future and see what will be the most important fundamental technologies that will change the world. His ability to understand technology both broadly and deeply and see what’s changing about the world is something I greatly admire. The great thing about Tom is that he also happens to be a kind person as well. I can only hope to measure up to him.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
The thing I am most recently proud of is the opening of Bioworks1, our first Foundry for engineering organisms. This is something we have been working towards for about a decade now: being able to engineer biology and ultimately build a factory for engineering organisms. It has finally become a reality and it’s a bit surreal to actually see it in action. We were able to design a factory for engineering biology from top to bottom. Now we will be able to use Bioworks 1 to work on projects like engineering yeast to produce new cultured rose aromas and engineering probiotics to combat drug resistant infections. The possibilities are very exciting to me.
Next step will be to build Bioworks2 to do the things we can’t yet do in Bioworks 1.
“The interesting thing about engineering biology is that it’s about bringing together a whole host of ideas and technologies. You need a team of people who are passionate about this work, a suite of technologies that makes it tractable to engineer biology, the resources to make it happen, the business model to capitalize on these technologies and an understanding of your customers who will be buying these organisms. There is no one magic silver bullet.”
It’s about bringing all these things together. That is what has been key to make Bioworks1 happen and to making Bioworks2 a reality in the future. I am incredibly proud of the team we have assembled and what we have achieved so far.