Lawmakers name appointees to new emerging biotech panel

By Briana Reilly / March 17, 2022 at 2:01 PM

Congressional defense committee leaders today named their picks for a newly created panel tasked with generating recommendations for leveraging emerging biotechnology for future military missions and activities.

Called the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology, the 12-member independent group was established in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act to complete a review of advances in emerging biotechnology and associated areas.

The chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, who each get to make two appointments to the commission, jointly announced their selections today. The four remaining members of the body are to be tapped by the House speaker and minority leader, as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders, per the NDAA.

In all, the picks include four lawmakers and four individuals who aren’t members of Congress. Under the NDAA, the non-legislator selections should be individuals who have professional experience in emerging biotechnology and associated areas; a background in the use of those technologies by national policymakers and military leaders; and an understanding of U.S. oversight in the national security policy realm.

Following is a run-down of the members named today and the lawmaker who appointed them:

  • House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA): Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Paul Arcangeli, an 18-year veteran committee staffer who’s poised to retire April 1, per the press release.
  • House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL): Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI): Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Dov Zakheim, a former Defense Department chief financial officer and under secretary of defense. Currently, he acts as a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and is a senior fellow at the CNA Corp.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Alexander Titus, a product strategy and operations lead at Google Research who previously served as the office of the under secretary of defense for research and development’s assistant director for biotechnology.

As part of the commission’s work, the NDAA directs members to review advances in emerging biotechnology and associated areas, considering “the methods, means, and investments necessary to advance and secure the development of biotechnology, biomanufacturing, and associated technologies by the United States to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs.”

Among the areas the commission should consider as part of its work are U.S. global competitiveness in biotechnology and biomanufacturing; ways for the country “to maintain and protect a technological advantage in biotechnology” from a national security and defense perspective; the potential for international cooperation and competitiveness; and more.

The final report is due within two years of the commission’s establishment, while an interim write-up is due at the one-year mark, the NDAA states. Those copies should be provided to the defense congressional committees and the president, with the report submitted to Congress in an unclassified form.