CSR Announces Inaugural Class of its Fellowship for Ending Bioweapons Programs

The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) has selected its inaugural class of the Fellowship for Ending Bioweapons Programs. In this one-year program, five Fellows will work with leading experts from CSR’s team and network to generate ideas for ending the threat of state biological weapons programs. 

Together, the CSR team will collaborate with the Fellows to explore wide-ranging ideas that governments, nonprofits, or other private organizations could pursue for addressing bioweapons threats. The Fellows will work to deepen our understanding of motivations for bioweapons programs, and foster creative ideas and options for the use of technologies, international cooperation, and engagement of non-traditional actors for the purpose of reducing biological weapons risks. 

Given the ambition of the Fellowship program, CSR is particularly excited to welcome five immensely talented people with diverse experiences to form its first class: 

  • Chris Bakerlee is a PhD candidate in Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, where he uses synthetic biology and genomics to probe the genetic basis of complex traits in budding yeast. Prior to graduate school, Chris studied mechanisms of antibiotic killing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and bacteriophage evolution in labs at both Brown University and Yale University. He also served healthcare clients as a management consultant in McKinsey’s Boston office. He graduated with a BA in Biology from Brown in 2012. Chris is a Fellow in the 2020 class of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI), and he led the 2019-2020 Emerging Tech Policy Network at the Kennedy School.
  • Dr. Steph Guerra is a biomedical research scientist currently working at the Office of Research and Development at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Science and Technology Policy Fellow. Her work at the VA focuses on building research and clinical infrastructure to drive research impacts and to support Veterans’ access to opioids management and precision oncology care. Throughout her career, Steph has worked as a consultant for organizations dedicated to increasing the civic engagement of scientists, communicating science to various stakeholders, and developing health policy strategies. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Steph is excited to leverage her expertise in biomedical research and health policy to work with CSR to develop creative solutions to end the threat that bioweapons pose to our society. 
  • Dr. Damien Soghoian is the Head of Strategy and Operations at Foresite Labs, where he focuses on the creation and incubation of new healthcare and biotechnology companies. He is also a member of the investment team at Foresite Capital Management, a healthcare venture capital and private equity firm. Prior to his investment career, Damien was a scientist at Verily Life Sciences, where he served as technical lead on several projects that deployed technology to better understand human health. He received his B.S. in Biology from Caltech and Ph.D. in Virology from Harvard University and has broad experience in systems biology, immunology, and biochemistry R&D across academia and industry.
  • Jacob Swett is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, a Senior Research Scientist at Lockheed Martin Space, and Co-Founder of altLabs, a research non-profit focused on the development and advancement of technologies for biosecurity. He is a former Emerging Leader in Biosecurity Fellow and member of the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Board. His research focuses on biosurveillance, molecular diagnostics, nanofabrication, and biosecurity. Prior to Oxford he worked full-time at Lockheed Martin Space in Palo Alto, CA on nanotechnology and materials science technology for space and biomedical applications. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics, a Bachelor of Arts in German, and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics, with minors in Astronomy and Environmental Physics technology.
  • Dr. Lynda Truong recently completed her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science at the University of Oxford in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As a fellow in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge program, she managed an international research collaboration spanning organic chemistry, structural biology, and fluorescence biophysics to develop novel chemical tools for bioimaging. In her spare time, Lynda also co-chairs the NIH Science Policy group, where she supervises a group of 40 scientific trainees in exploring a variety of science policy topics and regularly organizes discussions featuring senior policymakers from federal, nonprofit, and private institutions. Lynda is interested in the intersection of science and public policy, especially as it relates to biodefense, and plans to pursue a career in public service and policy following her scientific training. 

The continuing devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another reminder of the world-altering effects biological threats can cause. Worse, states interested in biological weapons may interpret the world’s challenges in effectively responding to this naturally-occurring pandemic as an indicator that bioweapons are even more politically and strategically valuable. 

Luckily, the incredible response to CSR’s call for applicants to this Fellowship shows that brilliant thinkers from diverse backgrounds wish to dedicate their talents to countering bioweapons threats.

CSR will connect Chris, Steph, Damien, Jacob, and Lynda with experts in biological threats, helping to build their professional networks and ensuring that their talents will be dedicated to this fight well into the future. We are very grateful to Open Philanthropy for supporting the Fellowship, and for seeing the great potential in bringing on all five of the experts selected. We look forward to mentoring this group and collaborating with them to reduce the serious threat to security that bioweapons pose. 


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