2024 Investiture Information

ENGS 15.03 - The Ecosystem for Bio-Innovation


We are living through biology’s century: global pandemics; $100 genomes; bio-reactor beef; plastic-eating engineered microbes…and we still have 80 years to go. This course is built around the basic idea that biotechnology is changing the world, but will only reach its greatest potential—technologically, economically, ethically—if we learn to guide it as a complex ecosystem of inter-dependent actors. Biotech hubs thrive where there is a dense milieu of intellectual and financial capital from top universities, academic medical centers, entrepreneurs, and venture capital. This course aims to ensure that future leaders—physicians, scientists, journalists, lawyers, financiers, patients, legislators—understand the ways that scientific advances, innovation policy, and entrepreneurship feed one another. Taught by a biotech venture capital investor, this is an interdisciplinary course designed to empower students with the context and confidence to go deeper than news headlines that fail to see both the ‘forest’ and the ‘trees’. The term will unfold in a cumulative manner. We begin with a diagnosis and overview of the Ecosystem for Bio-Innovation, and then go deeper into the institutions and players that cross-pollinate within this ecosystem, focusing on healthcare (e.g. mRNA vaccines, genetic disease treatments) while making note of biotechnology’s far broader impact on our society and planet. Each week of the course will focus on one theme, while also introducing new intellectual frameworks, plus real-world cases to help concretize key concepts. We will bring material to life through a combination of lecture, Socratic learning, student projects, guest speakers, and in-class debates, always infusing our time together with a sense of the scientific, economic, political, and ethical choices at stake. Final projects will allow students to critically apply coursework toward a cutting-edge area of biotechnology.

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