WIB-Greater Boston: Panel at BIO Digital 2021: The Bioeconomy and the Future of Pandemic Response


During the past year, we witnessed the intersection of an emerging global bioeconomy with a global pandemic. COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities that can disrupt our public health, national security, environment, economy, and everyday lives. In response to the COVID threat, tools of the bioeconomy – including DNA synthesis, next-generation sequencing, and biomanufacturing – enabled the rapid development of vaccines and diagnostics as a front-line defense to counter the destabilization caused by the pandemic.

What happens next? While the US is the leader in the development of innovative biotechnologies, the nation has yet to realize the full potential of biotechnologies not only to support pandemic response but also to grow the economy, bolster bio-innovation, secure supply chains, and protect our environment in a post-pandemic era. The panel will discuss how bioindustry, academia, and governments will play a critical role in both the bioeconomy and future pandemic preparedness and response, creating for the first time a robust biosecurity infrastructure to address our national and global current vulnerabilities.

Note: This event is open to the general public (a BIO pass is not required to attend). It is from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EDT / 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PDT. It may be recorded. If so, there is a possibility your image and or voice may be a part of that recording. If you do not wish for your image to be included, please turn off your camera.



R. Alta CharoR. Alta Charo, Moderator

R. Alta Charo is the Warren P. Knowles Professor Emerita of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In the past, she also has served on the faculty of the UW Masters in Biotechnology Studies program and the Dept. of Medical History and Bioethics at the School of Medicine & Public Health. For the 2019-2020 academic year, she was on leave while a Berggruen fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

At present, she is the inaugural David A. Hamburg Fellow at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington DC, where she has joined the biosecurity team. She is also now lead co-chair of the 4S (safety, security, sustainability, and social responsibility) unit of the new Dept of Defense biotechnology manufacturing innovation institute, “BioMADE”.

Alta Charo (BA biology, Harvard 1979; JD Columbia, 1982) is an elected member (2004) of the World Technology Network and (2005) the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. In 2006 she was elected to membership in the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) (now known as the National Academy of Medicine). In 2013 she was awarded the Adam Yarmolinsky Medal for her service to the IOM. In 2020, she was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Professor Charo served on President Obama’s transition team, where she was a member of the HHS review team, focusing her attention particularly on transition issues related to NIH, FDA, bioethics, stem cell policy, and women’s reproductive health. She was on leave 2009-2011 to serve as a senior policy advisor on emerging technology issues in the Office of the Commissioner at the US Food & Drug Administration.


Megan J. PalmerMegan Palmer, PhD

Dr. Megan J. Palmer is the Executive Director of Bio Policy & Leadership Initiatives at Stanford University (Bio-polis). In this role, Dr. Palmer leads integrated research, teaching, and engagement programs to explore how biological science and engineering is shaping our societies, and to guide innovation to serve public interests. Based in the Department of Bioengineering, she works closely both with groups across the university and with stakeholders in academia, government, industry, and civil society around the world.

In addition to fostering broader efforts, Dr. Palmer leads a focus area in biosecurity in partnership with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford. Projects in this area examine how security is conceived and managed as biotechnology becomes increasingly accessible. Her current projects include assessing strategies for governing dual use research, analyzing the diffusion of safety and security norms and practices, and understanding the security implications of alternative technology design decisions.

Dr. Palmer has created and led many programs aimed at developing and promoting best practices and policies for the responsible development of bioengineering. For the last ten years, she has led programs in safety, security, and social responsibility for the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, which last year involved over 6000 students in 353 teams from 48 countries. She also founded and serves as Executive Director of the Synthetic Biology Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program (LEAP), an international fellowship program in biotechnology leadership. She advises and works with many other organizations on their strategies for the responsible development of bioengineering, including serving on the board of directors of Revive & Restore, a nonprofit organization advancing biotechnologies for conservation.


Renee WegrzynRenee Wegrzyn

Renee is a Vice President of Business Development at Ginkgo Bioworks where she supports Ginkgo’s Mission of making biology easier. Prior to Ginkgo, she was Program Manager in the Biological Technologies Office (BTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where she leveraged the tools of synthetic biology and gene editing to enhance biosecurity, support the domestic bioeconomy, and outpace infectious disease. Her DARPA portfolio included the Living Foundries: 1000 Molecules, Safe Genes, Preemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE), and Detect it with Gene Editing (DIGET) programs. Prior to joining DARPA as a PM, Renee led teams in private industry in the areas of biosecurity, gene therapies, emerging infectious disease, neuromodulation, synthetic biology, and diagnostics. Renee holds a PhD and BS in applied biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was a Fellow in the Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI), and completed her postdoctoral training as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in Heidelberg, Germany.


Mary MaxonMary Maxon

As the ALD for Biosciences, Mary Maxon oversees Berkeley Laboratory’s Biological Systems & Engineering, Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology, and Molecular Biophysics & Integrated Bioimaging Divisions and the DOE Joint Genome Institute. Maxon has been integral to the strategic planning efforts and development of the Biosciences Area for four years, most recently as the Biosciences Principal Deputy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from the State University of New York, Albany, and her graduate degree in molecular cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. Maxon has worked in the private sector, both in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, as well as the public sector, highlighted by her tenure as the Assistant Director for Biological Research at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President, where she developed the National Bioeconomy Blueprint. With her diverse and extensive background in industry, scientific foundations, and both state and federal government, Maxon is recognized as a national leader in science and technology policy.

Pricing Information

  • Members: Free
  • Non-Members*: $15
  • Optional Donations: $10

*To access the Member rate, please click here to purchase a WIB membership. Please enter the code Becomeamemberandsave to save $10 off membership. This code is valid through July 31, 2021.

*Our webinar will take place at Zoom Webinar. National staff will handle the registration through Zoom Webinar. You will receive your join link from Zoom Webinar prior to the event.

Registration Deadline

June 14, 2021

Maximum Capacity