CSR Announces 2023-24 Class of its Fellowship for Ending Bioweapons Programs

The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) is excited to announce the newest class of its Fellowship for Ending Bioweapons Programs.

In a time of rising geopolitical tensions, rapid technological change, and an enduring pandemic, the potential devastation of biological risks is clearer now than ever. Whether natural, accidental, or deliberate, biological threats pose grave dangers to international security and stability, and significantly impact the welfare of people around the globe. Further, biological weapons continue to be at the center of misinformation and disinformation campaigns, and there is an urgent need to strengthen long-standing norms and institutions that work to stop biological weapons from being created and used. The urgency for mitigating this area of catastrophic risks is also driven home by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and concerns that Russia’s leaders might consider using weapons of mass destruction in conflict. 

CSR hopes that through this fellowship, the participants listed below will understand the tools and motivations that countries might have for pursuing biological weapons programs, and come away with creative ideas and options to reduce these risks. CSR will lead the following group of Fellows in exploring wide-ranging ideas that governments, nonprofits, or other organizations could pursue for addressing the rapidly evolving space of biological threats. 

Jess Rogers is an international lawyer and policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the U.S. Department of Defense. Her work focuses on countering weapons of mass destruction threats through the promotion of international norms. Previously, she was a fellow in residence at the Federation of American Scientists, where she assessed strategic arms control options after the New START treaty. Prior to that, she served two years on the nonproliferation treaties and agreements team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She also previously helped promote U.S.-Russian arms control at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Biological Weapons Convention at the U.S. Department of State. Jess earned her JD from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and later specialized with an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She plans to use this fellowship to better connect the technical, legal, and policy expertise needed to effectively prevent the proliferation and possible use of bioweapons.

Nils Justen is finishing up an engineering graduate degree at the Technical University of Munich where he is conducting research on mitigating aerosol transmission of respiratory viruses. In the fall, Nils will begin a new role in the U.S. government focused on enhancing biosecurity through an Executive Branch fellowship. Prior to joining this program, Nils worked for the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention where he assisted with the implementation of the Ninth Review Conference. He previously completed a biosecurity governance fellowship at Stanford University and has worked as an emerging technology intern with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Over the past several years, Nils has worked in a variety of cross-disciplinary positions spanning academia, private industry, and government. Nils holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University. He hopes to use the knowledge gained during this fellowship to inform effective actions that mitigate biological threats in his new position.

Dr. James Coates is the Health and Human Performance principal at Decisive Point, a venture capital and strategic advisory firm that invests in and supports startups with emerging defense technologies. Previously, James worked at Bain Capital Life Sciences and was a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He’s worked with small and medium-sized biotechnology startups on a wide range of strategic challenges. He graduated from McGill University in Chemical & Biomedical Engineering, received an M.Sc. in Nuclear Medicine & Medical Oncology (with honors) from the University of Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Cancer Drug Discovery also from Oxford.

Riley Griffin is a health reporter for Bloomberg News who covers biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. Based in Washington, Riley is focused on how U.S. government agencies, from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Defense Department, are working with industry, academia and nonprofits to counter a range of naturally-occurring, accidental and deliberate health threats. From 2018 through 2022, Riley covered the largest players in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and their efforts to develop medical countermeasures for Covid-19. She was awarded a Front Page Award for beat reporting on the pandemic. Riley graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, where she studied international relations, policy journalism and English. There, she won the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Melcher Award for excellence in journalism. Riley has written for HuffPost and The Poynter Institute, and helped research and edit books published by historians and novelists.

Britt Lampert is a researcher funded by Open Philanthropy’s Biosecurity Scholarship. Her work has focused on open-source intelligence for detecting biological weapons threats, as well as emerging technologies for reducing disease transmission. In the fall, she will begin a think tank fellowship in Washington, DC. Prior to her career shift into biosecurity, Britt worked to improve the health of astronauts. At SpaceX, she developed the company’s astronaut food and water programs, and at the University of Minnesota, she managed a laboratory that was funded by NASA, NIH, and the USDA. Britt holds a BA in Psychology with High Distinction from the University of Minnesota and received her PhD in Health Psychology from UCLA.

Tessa Alexanian is trying to steer towards nice futures for biotechnology. After finishing her engineering degree, she spent four years wrangling robots to do biological engineering at Zymergen, followed by two years serving as the iGEM Competition’s Safety and Security officer. Her work has focused on modular laboratory automation, developing cultures of responsibility in the life sciences, and assessing dual-use risks from synthetic biology. Tessa has run workshops on Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) verification, responsible use of synthetic biology beyond containment, and collaborative biosecurity. She was a 2022 ELBI fellow, the 2020 Foresight Fellow in Responsible Biotechnology, and a 2017 iGEM delegate to the BWC.


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