As the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus that leads to COVID-19, it is a stark reminder of the devastation biological threats can cause. And while this ongoing pandemic arose naturally, it reinforces the grave threat biological weapons still pose to international security and stability.
The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) is developing creative solutions that could help end this threat. As part of this work, CSR has selected the inaugural class of its 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 and a Fellow in the 2020 class of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He is focusing his career on mitigating catastrophic anthropogenic biological risks. In his research, Chris uses the tools of experimental evolution, synthetic biology, and genomics to probe the genetic bases of complex traits in budding yeast. More specifically, he studies patterns of higher-order interactions among mutations across the genome, trying to understand their implications for organisms' fitness and populations' adaptive trajectories across environments. Prior to graduate school, Chris studied mechanisms of antibiotic killing in the lab of Jim Collins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and bacteriophage evolution in the labs of Daniel Weinreich and Paul Turner at Brown University and Yale University, respectively. After graduating with a BA in Biology from Brown in 2012, Chris worked as a management consultant in McKinsey & Company's Boston office, where he served major healthcare providers and medical device, pharmaceutical, and consumer health companies. He also supported the Arkansas Department of Human Services in their roll out of novel provider payment mechanisms in the wake of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. While a graduate student, Chris led the 2019-2020 Emerging Tech Policy Network with the support of the Technology and Public Purpose project within the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School. He has written about the threat of engineered pathogens for Vox.com.
Dr. Steph Guerra
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 (AAAS) 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. Prior to her time with the VA, Steph served as a Mirzayan Science Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Science where her projects centered on expanding the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the scientific community. Steph is a member of the inaugural Day One Project cohort, a policy proposal accelerator dedicated to democratizing the policymaking process. Her Day One policy proposal focuses on accelerating the adoption of high-quality healthcare delivery through coordination of the innovation, demonstration, and implementation authorities of the VA and Health and Human Services (HHS). Throughout her career, she 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 and her B.S. in Biological Sciences and B.A. in Hispanic Studies from Carnegie Mellon University. Steph is excited to leverage her expertise in biomedical research and science policy to work with CSR to develop creative solutions to end the threat that bioweapons pose to our society.
Dr. Damien Soghoian
Damien Soghoian is the Head of Strategy and Operations at Foresite Labs, where he is part of the leadership team and focuses on the incubation of new healthcare and biotechnology companies that use the tools of data science to solve unmet medical needs. Damien is also a member of the investment team at Foresite Capital Management, a healthcare venture capital and private equity firm. Damien is passionate about the intersection of life sciences and technology and how private sector innovation can benefit public health. Prior to his transition to the investment world, Damien was an early member of Google Life Sciences (now Verily Life Sciences), where he was science lead for the Project Baseline health study and served as technical lead for immunology, driving the deployment of Verily’s immunology platform across multiple collaborations. Damien received his B.S. in Biology from Caltech and a Ph.D. in Virology from Harvard University and has experience in systems biology, immunology, and biochemistry research and development 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. Much of his work aims to develop new technologies and systems for pathogen biosurveillance and more capable biosensors with a focus on nanotechnology, single-molecule, and SynBio enabled devices. He is driven to connect technology emerging in academic and industrial labs to implementation in real-world applications, with an emphasis on technologies with the potential to reduce risks of biological threats whether natural, deliberate, or accidental. 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
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. Prior to her graduate studies, Lynda graduated summa cum laude from The University of Alabama with a B.S. in Chemistry and minors in Mathematics and Computer Science. Her undergraduate research focused on DNA modifications, and she spent a summer at the University of California, Berkeley studying RNA modifications as an Amgen Scholar. She was awarded the Goldwater scholarship for her undergraduate work. In addition to her scientific research, Lynda has been engaged in several external committees. As co-chair of the NIH Science Policy group, she supervises a group of 40 scientific trainees in exploring a variety of science policy topics, regularly organizing discussions that feature senior policymakers from federal, nonprofit, and private institutions. She has also written essays for the group’s science policy blog, covering topics such as biodiversity and pandemic response. 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 following her scientific training.