Previous 2018 Speakers

A Biohacker Conference.

Hamilton Morris is a television and print journalist and contributor to Harper’s Magazine and National Geographic TV.

He is a correspondent for VICE on HBO, the science editor of VICE Magazine, and the writer and executive producer of the series Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia on Viceland. Morris has authored numerous scientific publications on the pharmacology, chemistry and history of psychoactive drugs. His reporting is focused on the role psychoactive drugs play in different cultures and the international drug trade.

Drew Endy is a member of the bioengineering faculty at Stanford University and BioBricks Foundation president (
His research teams pioneered amplifying genetic logic, rewritable DNA data storage, reliably-reuseable standard biological parts, and genome refactoring. Drew helped launch the new undergraduate majors in bioengineering at both MIT and Stanford; he also co-founded the iGEM competition, a global genetic engineering “olympics” now engaging over 6,000 students annually ( In 2013 the White House recognized Drew for his work on open-source biotechnology and, more recently, he received an honorary doctorate from the Technische Universiteit Delft. Drew has served on the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and the Committee on Science, Technology, & Law; he currently serves on the World Health Organization’s Smallpox Advisory Committee. Drew lives in Menlo Park, California with Christina Smolke (Stanford colleague & Antheia, Inc., CEO), their two boys, and two cats. Drew was a co-founder of Gen9, Inc., a DNA construction company; he returned to serve as a director while Gen9 was successfully acquired. Drew worked briefly with the Rapid Evaluation team at Google [X] and also served on the building project team for the Shriram Center at Stanford. He is a founding co-director of the NIST/Stanford Joint Initiative for Metrology in Biology ( Esquire magazine recognized Drew as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

Michael Specter is a staff writer at The New Yorker.
Since joining the magazine in 1998, he has written about agricultural biotechnology, the global AIDS epidemic, avian influenza, malaria, the world’s diminishing freshwater resources, synthetic biology, geoengineering, new ways to edit DNA with CRISPR, and the implications of gene drive technology. His profile subjects include: Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA, Dr. Oz, Peter Singer, Vandana Shiva, Miuccia Prada, and Richard Branson. Specter came to The New Yorker from the New York Times, where he had been a roving foreign correspondent based in Rome. From 1995 to 1998, Specter served as co-chief of The Times Moscow bureau. Before working at the Times he was the New York Bureau Chief of The Washington Post.
Specter has received the Overseas Press Club’s Citation for Excellence,
the Global Health Council’s annual Excellence in Media Award, AAAS Science Journalism Award, and the James Beard Award. His 2009 book, “Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives,” received the Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking, presented by The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is currently on leave from The New Yorker to write a book about gene editing.

Andrew Hessel is the founder of Humane Genomics Inc., an early stage biotechnology company specializing in designer synthetic viruses.
The first application being developed is personalized cancer therapies for dogs. Hessel is also the co-founder of the Genome Project-write (GP-write), the international scientific effort advancing the design, construction, and testing of large genomes, including the human genome. Previously, Andrew was the Distinguished Researcher at Autodesk Life Sciences. He has been Singularity University faculty since 2009. His goal is to help people better understand and use living systems to meet the needs of society. He is based in San Francisco, California.

Zoltan Istvan is widely recognized for spearheaded the modern-day transhumanist movement, which advocates for using radical science to improve and evolve the human being.
In his 20s, Zoltan started as a journalist at National Geographic Channel. Later, he became a successful real estate developer during the boom years, and still own many properties including vineyard entities in Argentina and Napa Valley. Zoltan was also a director at a major wildlife nonprofit, WildAid. In his 30s, Zoltan began writing a science fiction novel The Transhumanist Wager, which became a Top 5 Amazon book and won awards. Zoltan’s public work has received hundreds of millions of views, much of it through his political and science activism. He was the 2016 presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party and toured the country in the Immortality Bus, which he used to deliver the original Transhumanist Bill of Rights to the US Capitol. He was also a party endorsed 2018 libertarian California Governor candidate. Zoltan has spoken at the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, Microsoft, Harvard and was the opening keynote at the Financial Times Camp Alphaville. He is a graduate of Columbia University, and lives in San Francisco with his physician wife and two young daughters. In a 5000-word feature on his work, The New York Times wrote Zoltan is “polite and charismatic” and has a “plausibly Presidential aura.”



Daniel Grushkin is the founder and director of Biodesign Challenge and Genspace.
Daniel Grushkin is the founder and director of the Biodesign Challenge. He is co-founder and Executive Director of Genspace, a nonprofit community laboratory dedicated to promoting citizen science and access to biotechnology. Fast Company ranked Genspace fourth among the top 10 most innovative education companies in the world. Daniel was a Fellow at Data & Society from 2016-2017. From 2013-2014, he was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where he researched synthetic biology. He was an Emerging Leader in Biosecurity at the UPMC Center of Health Security in 2014. As a journalist, he has reported on the intersection of biotechnology, culture, and business for publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Scientific American and Popular Science.

Melissa Runfeldt is a Neuroscientist and AI Scientist for Salesforce Einstein.
Melissa Runfeldt is a Data Scientist for Salesforce Einstein, where she productionizes AI technologies for predictive applications. Her background is in applied mathematics, data analysis, and experimental and theoretical neuroscience. She received her PhD in Computational Neuroscience from The University of Chicago and was a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, where she researched neural information coding in the neocortex. She serves as a technical advisor for Insight AI.

David Ishee is a biohacker that specializes in breeding dogs. 

He’s been developing accessible methods to allow animal breeders to use genetic engineering to solve problems traditional breeding alone can’t solve. Beyond that his work has focused on creating accessible gene delivery methods for personal genetic modification.

Keoni Gandall is a Biohacker who leads the Free Genes Project.

Keoni Gandall’s mission is to provide free synthetic genes to the public. Keoni worked at UC Irvine for 4 years on directed evolution and mitochondria engineering in hopes that someday he can build a cell from scratch. His current project is with the Biobricks Foundation to lead the FreeGenes Project. He wants to create synthetic genes for everyone to decentralize regulations for biohackers and beyond. He loves zeppelins, has pet ant colonies, and used to collect rare carnivorous plants.
Rich Lee is a grinder known for implanting headphones in his ears in 2013.
He has collaborated on numerous biohacking and sensory augmentation projects. He is currently developing a vibrating pelvic implant called the Lovetron9000.

Tristan Roberts is a Biohacker that pioneered gene therapy for treating HIV.
Tristan Roberts tested a gene therapy for treating HIV last year, as part of the now defunct Ascendance Biomedical. An advocate of responsible decentralization, he has been developing information technology to allow biomedical research to flourish in an age where access to labs and genetic modifications are increasingly available.

Amal Graafstra talks about biohacking, transhumanism, implantable technologies, and why implants are the next big thing beyond wearables.
Adventure technologist and biohacker Amal Graafstra has always been interested in technology. In 2005 he became the world’s first double RFID implantee by implanting two small RFID transponders, one into each hand, which he still uses today to open doors, start vehicles, log into computers, and operate his implant activated smartgun. Since upgrading himself, he’s written a book called RFID Toys, been a TEDx speaker, appeared on a multitude of television and media programs, and been the subject of various documentaries. He’s also started a biohacking company in 2013 called Dangerous Things, which developed the world’s first and only NFC compliant implantable transponder. He is currently developing next generation implantable technologies and exploring the future of human augmentation as CEO of his new venture VivoKey Technologies.

Patti Zetter

Patti Zettler is an associate professor of law and a faculty member of the Center for Law, Health & Society at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta.
Her research focuses on the regulation of medicine and biotechnology, with an emphasis on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before joining Georgia State in 2015, she served as a fellow at the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School, and, before that, as an attorney in the FDA’s Office of the Chief Counsel. In addition to her legal background, Zettler has bioethics experience through work at the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California San Francisco and at the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford, both with distinction.

Ramy Kim is the President of Counter Culture Labs.
Ramy is an environmental health scientist/public health practitioner who works on biohacking and science outreach for public collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Currently President of Counter Culture Labs (CCL), she focuses on how to actively make CCL inclusive for all, regardless of their background. As Global Strategist for Open Insulin, Ramy works with the worldwide collaborators for the equitable development of an open source insulin protocol and drug distribution, intended for the commons. Her environmental justice projects involve place-based understanding of open civic data, air quality, and lead contamination rooted in participatory methods, and community science. She also devotes time as the Community Organizer and Steering Committee member for OpenOakland, a local Code for America Brigade, in advancing public interest technology projects. She is a conscious data-pusher: for personal empowerment and for policy change. To slow down, Ramy enjoys gardening and scheming for better post-capitalist futures.


Luis Ceze is a professor in the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington and a venture partner at the Madrona Venture Group.

His research focuses on the intersection between computer architecture, programming languages, machine learning, and biology. His current focus is on approximate computing for efficient machine learning and DNA-based data storage. He has co-authored more than 100 papers in these areas and has had several papers selected as IEEE Micro Top Picks and CACM Research Highlights. His research has been featured prominently in the media, including New York Times, Popular Science, MIT Technology Review, Wall Street Journal, among others. He is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, the IEEE TCCA Young Computer Architect Award, and the UIUC Distinguished Alumni Award. He consults for Microsoft and is a member of the DARPA ISAT and MEC study groups.


Leeor Kaufman & Joe Egender are documentary filmmakers in production on a series following the biotech revolution.
The series dives into the progress being made in the fields of medicine, agriculture, aging, fertility and DIY biotechnologies. They will discuss their experiences from spending time with scientists, patients, and biohackers.

Alex Pearlman is a bioethicist and independent journalist.
She reports on ethical issues in emerging science and technology and the intersection with policy. Alex has previously reported on international human rights, women’s rights, technology policy, digital culture and freedom of information activism. Her byline has appeared in New Scientist, Motherboard, The Boston Globe, Al Jazeera, PRI’s The World, Vice, and elsewhere, and she holds a masters in Bioethics from Kings College London. She is currently a Research Associate at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School working on the ethics of experimentation and biohacking.

Kristen V. Brown covers the future of health at Bloomberg.
In the name of journalism, she has probably taken more DNA tests than anyone else on the planet.

Stephanie M. Lee is a science reporter at BuzzFeed News in San Francisco.