Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
MIT professor Kevin Esvelt leads the Sculpting Evolution Group in advancing biotechnology safely. The creator of a synthetic ecosystem to rapidly evolve molecular tools, he is best known for inventing CRISPR-based “gene drive” systems capable of single-handedly editing wild species. Esvelt and his colleagues chose to publicly describe the technology and highlight the need for safeguards before testing it and demonstrating reversibility in the laboratory. An outspoken advocate of sharing research plans to accelerate discovery and improve safety, Esvelt has led efforts to ensure that all ecological editing research is not only open but community-guided. His laboratory seeks to safeguard biotechnology against mistrust and misuse by pioneering new ways of visibly working with communities, inventing early-warning systems to reliably detect biological threats, and applying cryptographic methods to enable secure and universal DNA synthesis screening. Their work has been published in Nature and Science, covered by the New York Times and Washington Post, and popularized on Last Week Tonight and Netflix.