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Headshot of Alta Charo

Alta Charo, J.D.

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, now working as a consultant to industry and government on biotechnology policy, regulation and ethics. 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).

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), the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. At the US 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 drug safety. In the past she co-chaired the Academies’ committee on principles for governance for emerging technologies; its 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. She also served as a member of the World Health Organization's expert advisory committee on global governance of genome editing and the organizing committee for the second and third international summits on human genome editing. At present she serves on the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats; its Committee on Emerging Science, Technology and Innovation; and its Standing Committee on Aerospace Medicine and the Medicine of Extreme Environments.

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