Staff Profiles

Alta Charo

University of Wisconsin

Alta Charo (B.A. biology, Harvard 1979; J.D. Columbia, 1982) is the Warren P. Knowles Professor Emerita of Law & Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin.  Prior to her 1989 arrival at UW, Charo served as Associate Director of the Legislative Drafting Research Fund of Columbia University; Fulbright Lecturer in American Law at the Sorbonne in Paris; legal analyst at the congressional Office of Technology Assessment; and AAAS Diplomacy Fellow at USAID.  Professor Charo took leave from UW for 2009-2011 to serve as a senior policy advisor on emerging technology issues in the FDA Office of the Commissioner. Other government service includes membership on President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission (1996-2001).

At present, Charo is serving as the inaugural David A. Hamburg Distinguished Fellow at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, where she is focused primarily on the Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative.  She is also the lead co-chair of the 4S (safety, security, sustainability and social responsibility) team for BioMADE, a DoD-led Manufacturing USA Institute with a vision to build a sustainable, domestic end-to-end bioindustrial manufacturing ecosystem.

Charo has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (“NAM,” formerly known as the IOM), as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.   At the National Academies, Professor Charo was a member of the IOM/NAM Council, various NAS and NAM boards on health and science policy, and multiple committees focused on topics ranging from bioterrorism to infectious disease risks to long-term space travel health concerns.  In the past she co-chaired the NAS/NAM committee to develop national voluntary guidelines for stem cell research and its committee charged with making recommendations on the use of gene-editing for both somatic and germline (heritable) changes in humans.  Currently she is a member of the World Health Organization's expert advisory committee on global governance of genome editing, and co-chair of the National Academies’ committee on principles for governance for emerging technologies.