DIF on AIR Frontiers: Designing with Biology

  • Speakers:
  • Natsai Audrey Chieza, Christina Agapakis

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Synthetic biologists are building platforms technologies to make biology easier to engineer which could help open up solutions to some of our most pressing ecological challenges. The systems required to catalyse this new industry pose a significant technical challenge that can be solved by DNA synthesis, robotics, and AI. But beyond this, how do we begin to address the complexity of building biotechnologies fit for the 21st Century, within dynamic cultural, economic, environmental and geopolitical contexts? In this session, join designer Natsai Audrey Chieza and biologist Christina Agapakis in a joint discussion on how integrating synthetic biology with design thinking can bring us closer to defining and designing preferable futures.


Natsai Audrey Chieza

Natsai Audrey Chieza

Founder & Director, Faber Futures

Natsai Audrey Chieza is a designer, change-maker, and TED speaker working at the intersection of creative and biotechnology industries. She is Founder and Director of Faber Futures, a London-based biodesign lab that is catalysing the alignment of DNA-scale engineering with the methods and principles of critical design thinking for the circular economy. In her 2017 TED Talk, Natsai offers a glimpse into the future of a synthetic biology industry primed to transform the creation and circulation of goods and services. Her manifesto lays out how this emerging technology converges with craft and interacts with the contemporary realities of resource scarcity, climate change, and sustainable development.

Natsai’s pioneering design-driven practice with bacteria pigments for sustainable biofabricated textiles has been exhibited at prestigious institutions internationally and sits in permanent collections including at the Forbes Pigment Collection at Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge MA. She is on the founding and curatorial team of Ginkgo Bioworks’ Ginkgo Creative Residency in Boston MA. She regularly speaks internationally including at SXSW, Synbiobeta, and Biofabricate, and has taught on biodesign programmes at Bartlett School of Architecture and Central Saint Martins in London. In 2018 Natsai was an honoree of OkayAfrica’s 100 Women 2018 for her work in STEM.

Christina Agapakis

Christina Agapakis

Creative Director, Ginkgo Bioworks

Christina Agapakis is creative director of Ginkgo Bioworks, a biological design company based in Boston. Her work brings together biologists, engineers, designers, artists, and social scientists to explore the future of biotechnology, from perfume made from extinct flowers to engineered probiotics and GMO beer. During her PhD at Harvard, she worked on producing hydrogen fuel in bacteria and making photosynthetic animals. She has taught designers at the Art Center College of Design and biomolecular engineers at UCLA, and she once made cheese using bacteria from the human body.

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