Center for Biological Futures


The CBF is a pilot project of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Its goal is to bring together biologists with scholars in the social sciences and humanities, including anthropologists and philosophers, to better understand how biological knowledge and capability are shaping human affairs in the 21st century.

A core activity of the Center is the development of tools for ethical thinking and practice that scientists and others whose work creates the future can use to inform and guide their ongoing endeavors. At the interface of security and ethics, we have focused on the H5N1 controversy. See the timeline we developed about these events in scrolling or text form, download below or visit our Document Repository.

Another core activity is the production of a working picture of developments in biological knowledge and capability with attention to their broader ramifications. Currently, at the interface of science and political spirituality we are conducting an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded project on Synthetic Biology and Religion. Engaging individuals from religious denominations and synthetic biologists, the project assess the on-the-ground reality of relations between science and religion in American public life.

The Center also sponsors scholarly activities and curricular development at the University of Washington, on topics ranging from the intergenerational ethical obligations of climate change to how rhetoric shapes scientific perception and direction of genome sequencing.

Project Areas

The project areas for the Center for Biological Futures are:

  • Science and the Good Life (Ethics)
  • Metrics of Global Health (Health)
  • Biology and Political Spirituality (Religion)
  • Security and Governance of Life (Security)

Questions of Interest

  • How are global health initiatives changing the ways in which NGOs, nations, and research organizations interact?
  • What are the significance and plausible consequences of the increasing use of agricultural biomass as feedstocks for fuel and chemical production?
  • How might these affect food production, and the security of human populations?
  • What combinations of technical and other capabilities lead to successful interventions in the trajectory of such developments, and what are the costs and consequences of "success"?

Other topics of inquiry at the CBF may include changes in means of drug discovery and vaccine development, the effects of 20th century biological warfare efforts on contemporary management of infectious disease, and related questions from scientists and scholars who are interested in working with us.