Center for Biological Futures Members

Gaymon Bennett (Senior Research Fellow)

Gaymon co-founded and helps steer the Center for Biological Futures, where he is a senior research fellow. He holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from UC Berkeley and a PhD in Systematic Theology from the Graduate Theological Union. Gaymon’s PhD thesis in anthropology, Biofabrication: Experience and Experiments in Sciences and Ethics, provides an account of the ethical, affective, and scientific price to be paid for working within “synthetic biology.” His PhD thesis in theology, On the Care of Human Dignity, provides a critical analysis of how the figure of human dignity has become integral to ecclesial, political, and ethical thought and practice. Gaymon is co-author of Sacred Cells?: Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research and co-editor of The Evolution of Evil and Bridging Science and Religion.

Gaymon has conducted intensive experiments in how to design practices and venues needed for facilitating effectual inquiry into and engagement with contemporary biology. He is a Principal of the Anthropological Research on the Contemporary and a founding co-designer of the Human Practices experiment at the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), a joint project of Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, UCSF, and Stanford. He led Human Practices at the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (BIOFAB) at LBNL and UC Berkeley, and was a research fellow of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. His design work emphasizes collaborative and multi-sited empirical inquiry, a shift of emphasis from theory to disciplined concept work, and sustained attention to the micro-politics of knowledge production.

Gaymon uses the anthropological techniques of participant-observation to examine the purposes and rationales forming scientific activities and organizations today. His work is informed by the Greek concept of eudaemonia, sometimes translated as “flourishing.” His research asks to what extent the sciences are contributing to human flourishing, and, where they are not, what should or can be done?

This inquiry is oriented by a number of interrelated questions: How are new scientific objects (careers, modes of expertise, institutions, biological systems) brought into the world, named, and circulated? What capabilities must scientists and those working with scientists form in order to bring this about? How has scientific invention come to be framed and elaborated as “salvational,” that is, uniquely capable of saving lives, economies, and ecosystems? Finally, and crucially, what qualifies scientists and those working with them to think and act ethically and critically in relation to these framings of biological work?

At the CBF, Gaymon is developing three research projects. The Ethical Figure of Global Biotechnology will inquire into ethical framings of relations among bioengineering, global health, sustainability, and biosecurity; how these framings specify promises and dangers; and how they are currently being unsettled. Biology and the Ethics of Biosecurity will investigate how attempts to separate bioethics and biosecurity over the past 30 years have limited the modes through which ethical truth claims and capacities can be advanced. Biology and the Question of Pastoral Power will examine how religious denominations and organizations in the U.S. have responded to developments in biology, and how this has reconfigured the governance of science as well as the politics of religious practice.

Additionally, Gaymon is helping develop two projects in support of ethics pedagogy and critique. Ethical Equipment for Contemporary Science studies the habits, dispositions, and virtues needed to produce scientific work and capacities. One of its outputs will be a repertoire of ethics pedagogy modules formulated as guides to conducting inquiry and shaping its ramifications. Reconstructing the Sciences, developed in collaboration with the Anthropology Research Collaboratory at UC Berkeley, will provide an online critique of pressing questions, unresolved problems, and blind spots that accompany the drive of ambitious scientists and engineers to accumulate and consolidate the funding and status required for a competitive mode of operation.

Gaymon Bennett (Senior Research Fellow)

Phone: 206-667-7157

Email: gbennett@fhcrc.org

Roger Brent (Director)

Roger co-founded and directs the Center for Biological Futures. Roger was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1955. He received a BA in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1973, where he did some work attempting to apply AI techniques to protein folding. He went on to get a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University in 1982 for studies with Mark Ptashne. As a graduate student, he showed that the E. coli lexA gene repressed genes involved in the response to radiation damage, cloned the gene, produced and purified its protein product using and in some cases extending the newly developed recombinant DNA methods, and studied binding of the repressor to its operators, showing that its differential binding affinity for these sites affected the timing of the response. As a postdoctoral fellow, also with Mark Ptashne, he tested a number of ideas about the mechanism of transcription regulation in yeast by using the prokaryotic LexA protein and in subsequent experiments creating chimeric proteins that carried LexA fused to activators native to yeast. These "domain swap" experiments established the modular nature of eukaryotic transcription regulators.

In 1985, Roger became a Professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School Department of Genetics. He and his coworkers used yeast transcription that depended on chimeric DNA bound proteins as a genetic probe for protein function in higher organisms. This work led to the development of working two-hybrid methods (1988-1993), to the ability to scale them up via interaction mating (1992-1994), and to the eventual development of protein interaction methods as a useful way to learn more about biological function. In parallel, Roger and his coworkers developed peptide aptamers as reverse "genetic" agents to study the function of proteins and allelic protein variants (1999-2001), and, more recently, as dominant forward "genetic" reagents to identify genes and pathway linkages in organisms, such as human cells, that are intractable to classical genetic analysis. (Perhaps as important as the actual technologies is the coeval development of ideology (e.g. doctrine) for using them.) This work is described in about 80 research papers and reviews.

In parallel to his academic work, Roger is a longtime (since 1984) advisor to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. He served on the SAB of American Home Products (Genetics Institute/Wyeth Ayerst Research), chairs scientific advisory boards for several smaller companies, and does significant ad hoc consulting work in genomics and computational biology. He is one of the founders (1987-2001) of Current Protocols, including Current Protocols in Molecular Biology, a "how to clone it" manual, which is updated every three months and has about 10,000 subscribing labs. He is founder and organizer (since 1994) of the "After the Genome" workshops. He is an inventor on 11 issued and several pending US Patents. Since the middle 1990s, he has exhorted and advised various bodies in the US and abroad on functional genomics and computational biology, including the National Institutes of Health, the Welcome Trust, the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and other parts of the US Defense Department.

Roger joined the Molecular Sciences Institute in 1998 as Associate Director. He was named Director in 2000 and President and CEO in 2001. Brent joined the faculty of UCSF Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences as an Adjunct Professor in 2000 and was named a Senior Scholar of the Ellison Medical Foundation in 2001.

In July 2009, Roger joined Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a Full Member in the Basic Sciences Division.

Roger Brent (Director)

Phone: 206-667-1482

Email: rbrent@fhcrc.org

Meg Stalcup (Senior Research Fellow)

Meg Stalcup co-founded and helps steer the Center for Biological Futures. She received her PhD from the Joint Program in Medical Anthropology at UC Berkeley and San Francisco. Meg's work, in biology, science communication and anthropology, has consistently bridged disciplines, and she is actively engaged in developing forms and practices of collaboration.

Meg has designed and executed several independent multi-year studies. Each drew on and developed methodology in the interpretive human sciences. Her masters thesis described the ethnobotany of plants used medicinally and ritually, obtained from an urban market in Rio de Janeiro. Her doctoral research involved over four years of fieldwork on the politics of security in the United States and at Interpol, in France. Subsequently, she engaged in a year-long collaborative follow-up investigation into counterterrorism training for state and local law enforcement in the United States. Her work generally utilizes qualitative interviews with stakeholders, detailed description (from people to funding sources, governance and regulatory structures, and the pertinent legal apparatus), and concept work requiring historical contextualization and adaptation of concepts from philosophy.

Meg continues her work in security, and is also currently working on several projects in global health that aim to provide insight into how metrics function both as forms of knowledge production and governance. She is especially interested in approaches to the persistent quandary of how to best allocate financial and human resources in health systems, specifically in terms of delivering basic interventions.

Meg previously obtained a BS in Biology from UC San Diego and an MS in Biological Sciences from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She completed the UC Santa Cruz program in Science Communication in 2001, and has produced illustrations for the California Academy of Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History, McGraw-Hill, Anthropology Today, and the UC Berkeley Graphics Department, among others. She has received fellowships from the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq), the IGCC Public Policy and Biological Threats Training Program, the UCHRI Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, and the US National Science Foundation.

Meg Stalcup (Senior Research Fellow)

Phone: 206-667-7158

Email: mstalcup@fhcrc.org

Desmond Huynh (Intern)

Desmond joined the Center for Biological Futures as an intern during the Spring of 2012. He is pursuing undergraduate degrees in Neurobiology and Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington. Desmond's philosophical interests are in phenomenology and philosophy of science.

In addition to his work at the Center for Biological Futures he is an undergraduate researcher with the Chiu group at the University of Washington where his laboratory background is in developing microfluidic techniques for analytical biology. At the Center for Biological Futures Desmond focuses on the Center's research project on biosecurity and the H5N1 publication debate.

Desmond Huynh (Intern)

Phone: 206-679-5178

Email: dhuynh@fhcrc.org

Katie Ulrich (Intern)

Kate joined the Center for Biological Futures as an intern during the Summer of 2012. She attends Haverford College near Philadelphia and is majoring in biology and anthropology. She grew up in Sammamish, WA and has worked at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for the past three summers in the Stoddard and Hahn labs. Her interests include medical anthropology and anthropology of science. Her work at the Center for Biological Futures is in researching synthetic biology and bio-fuels.

Katie Ulrich (Intern)

Phone: 206-765-7438

Email: kulrich@fhcrc.org