“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.”
Reshma Shetty co-founded synthetic biology Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc. in 2008. Spun out of MIT, Ginkgo’s mission is to make biology easier to engineer. Started in a Cambridge, MA apartment, Shetty has helped to grow the company to 200 people and raised $450M in financing. In October 2018, Ginkgo launched Bioworks4, its fourth generation facility for design, fabrication and testing of custom designed microbes. Ginkgo is concurrently engineering more than 50 organisms to spec for customers including Ajinomoto, Cargill and ADM.
Shetty has been active in the field of synthetic biology for 10+ years and co-organized SB1.0, the first international conference in synthetic biology in 2004. In 2005, Shetty and colleagues founded OpenWetWare.org, a wiki for the free sharing of information among biological and biological engineering researchers. In 2006, she was an advisor to the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition where she was best known for engineering bacteria to smell like bananas and mint. In 2008, Forbes magazine named Shetty one of Eight People Inventing the Future and in 2011, Fast Company named her one of 100 Most Creative People in Business. In 2014, Ginkgo became the first biotech company to participate in YCombinator. In 2018, Business Insider named her one of the most powerful female engineers.
Shetty has a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT. As a graduate student, Shetty’s research was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Whitaker Graduate Fellowship in Biological Engineering and the Andrew and Edna Viterbi Fellowship in Computational Biology. As an undergraduate, Shetty was supported by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the Beckman Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Pfizer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the University of Utah Presidential Scholarship.