Lawmakers round out membership of new emerging biotech commission

By Briana Reilly / December 30, 2022 at 4:05 PM

Legislative defense leaders today announced the full slate of members tapped to serve on a recently established commission tasked with making recommendations on the use of emerging biotechnology and biomanufacturing in the military.

Though the congressional defense committee’s top Democrats and Republicans had previously announced their joint selection of eight appointees back in March, it wasn’t until nine months later that the final four commissioner slots -- and the panel’s chair and vice chair -- were unveiled.

The 12-member body was created in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which called on the panel to review advances in emerging biotech, biomanufacturing and related areas while keeping in mind “the methods, means, and investments necessary to advance and secure” development of those technologies.

Helming the so-called National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology is Jason Kelly, the co-founder and CEO of synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks, while Michelle Rozo will take the No. 2 role, according to a press release from the House and Senate Armed Services committees. Rozo, whose membership was first announced today, most recently served as the National Security Council’s director for technology and national security.

Under the FY-22 NDAA, eight of the commission’s members were to be selected by the heads of the armed services committees, while the remaining four positions were to be filled by the House speaker and minority leader, as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders. The four members newly announced today, including Rozo, are: Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO and first chairman of the Defense Innovation Board; Angela Belcher, who helms MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering; and Dawn Meyerriecks, who most recently served as the deputy director of the CIA for science and technology.

The other members, all of whom were previously named, include four lawmakers: Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), as well as Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Todd Young (R-IN). Also serving on the panel are Paul Arcangeli, an 18-year veteran House Armed Services Committee staffer who retired in spring 2022; Dov Zakheim, a former Defense Department chief financial officer and under secretary of defense; 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.

The law’s text directs the commission to consider a number of things while conducting that review, ranging from ways to grow the nation’s bioeconomy and commercial industry through the development of biotech-enabled capabilities to avenues to establish international standards for biotech, biomanufacturing and digital biosecurity.

Members are expected to submit their initial findings to the congressional defense committees within a year of the commission’s establishment, with a final report due within a two-year timeframe, per the language.