John Cumbers is the founder of SynBioBeta, an activity hub for synthetic biology startup companies, industry and investors. He received his PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University. He has a masters degree in bioinformatics from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and an undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Hull in England. He founded the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines competition) team at Brown University in 2005, was an iGEM ambassador to China in 2006/2007 and has been working in the field of synthetic biology and resource utilization in space at NASA Ames since 2008.
John led the Planetary Sustainability Collaboratory at the NASA Ames Space Portal where he worked on partnerships that bring new technologies to bear on sustainability challenges on Earth and in space. In 2010, John was the recipient of a National Academies Keck Futures Initiative award to understand the role that synthetic biology could play in NASA’s missions. He has also been involved in multiple start-ups producing food for space and using microbes to extract lunar and martian resources. He was at NASA for 7 years working on these issues and was instrumental in starting NASA’s program in synthetic biology.
Thought leader, community builder, and consultant for both the public and private sector, John is passionate about using biotechnology to make a better world through sustainable technologies. As an authority on the topic, John has built communities in the space synthetic biology arena, published multiple papers on food production in space, terraforming, and the genetics of extremophiles. Constantly educating and connecting those around him, John is a person to know in the industry. His company, SynBioBeta, brings the entire community together several times each year and gives anyone the opportunity to meet with the bright minds building and shaping the bioeconomy — from venture capitalists and angel investors to entrepreneurs and industry thought leaders.