Genes Drives Media Briefing:

Panelist Biographies

Dr. Zach Adelman
Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University


Following earlier work on the generation of mosquitoes resistant to viral pathogens, Dr. Zach Adelman's research has more recently focused on the development of novel gene editing/gene replacement approaches for disease vector mosquitoes as well as understanding genetic interactions between arthropod-borne viruses and their mosquito vectors.

Dr. Adelman has served as a member of his local Institutional Biosafety Committee for eight years, including four years serving as its Chair. Most recently, Dr. Adelman is a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee that provides advice to the NIH director. Dr. Adelman is a member of the steering committee of the Insect Genetic Technologies Research Coordination Network (IGTRCN), a NSF-funded project, and is an instructor in the IGTRCN workshop on gene editing. Dr. Adelman has also recently served as editor on a 19-chapter volume entitled "Genetic Control of Malaria and Dengue" published in 2016, and serves as an editor for the journal PLoS One; his work has been funded by the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as the State of Texas.

Dr. Adelman received his B.A. degree in Biochemistry from Ithaca College and Ph.D. in Microbiology from Colorado State University; he joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 2005, and recently moved to Texas A&M University in 2016.

Dr. Anthony James
Donald Bren Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the School of Medicine
Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in the Ayala School of Biological Sciences
University of California, Irvine


Dr. Anthony James is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His research group uses genetics as the basis for synthetic approaches to prevent transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. Contributions include the development of mosquito transgenesis procedures and engineered genes that interfere with malaria parasite development in mosquitoes. He also collaborated to develop approaches to prevent dengue virus transmission and a population-suppression strain based on flightless female mosquitoes. Most recently he collaborated to develop a gene-drive system to spread beneficial genes quickly through mosquito populations. 

Dr. James received his bachelor of science and Ph.D. degrees at University of California, Irvine. He went to Boston in 1979 for postdoctoral work (Harvard Medical School and Brandeis University) and joined the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1985. He returned to his alma mater in 1989, where he is today.  Active and past support include multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation. He has published over 200 papers, reviews and policy documents and has provided guidance to 34 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.  He was a founding editor of the journal Insect Molecular Biology, and has served on the editorial boards of PLoS Neglected Tropical DiseasesExperimental Parasitology and Entomological Research. He is a member of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, American Committee on Vector Entomology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Parasitology, Royal Entomological Society, Entomological Society of America, Genetics Society of America and Society of Vector Ecology. 


Prior to her current role, Dr. Jennifer Kuzma was associate professor of science and technology policy at the University of Minnesota (2003-2013); study director at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (1999-2003); and an American Association for the Advancement of Science Risk Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1997-1999). She has over 100 scholarly publications on emerging technologies, risk analysis, regulatory policy, and governance and has been studying these areas for over 25 years.  She co-founded the Genetic Engineering and Society Center in 2014, and it has since become a leading national and international institution in research, engagement, and education relating to biotechnology and society.

Dr. Kuzma currently serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on Technology, Values, and Policy.  She has held several other leadership positions, including a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on Preparing for Future Biotechnology, Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Council Member and Secretary, Chair of the Gordon Conference on Science & Technology Policy, Member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Blood Products Advisory Committee, and a Member of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Expert Group for Nanotechnologies in Food and Agriculture. In 2014, she received the SRA Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer Award for recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field of risk analysis and in 2017-2018 she was awarded the Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Science Policy.  

She is interviewed frequently in the media for her expertise in biotechnology policy, including the New York Times, Science, Nature, NPR, Washington Post, Scientific American, PBS Nova, Wired, and ABC & NBC News.

Dr. Renee Wegrzyn
Program Manager
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


Dr. Renee Wegrzyn is interested in applying the tools of synthetic biology to support biosecurity and outpace infectious disease.

Prior to joining DARPA as a program manager, Dr. Wegrzyn was a Senior Lead Biotechnologist at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she led a team that provided scientific and strategic support in the areas of biodefense, biosecurity, disruptive technologies, emerging infectious disease, neuromodulation, and synthetic biology to DARPA and other federal and private institutions. She is a former fellow and active mentor for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative. Dr. Wegrzyn also led research and development teams in the biotech industry focused on the development of multiplex immunoassays and peptide-based disease diagnostics.

Dr. Wegrzyn holds Doctor of Philosophy and Bachelor of Science degrees in Applied Biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, with an undergraduate minor in Bioengineering. She completed her postdoctoral training as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in Heidelberg, Germany.

Rick Weiss (moderator)


Rick Weiss has more than three decades of experience in journalism and public affairs, including 15 years as a science reporter at the Washington Post and more than a decade leading strategic communications and media relations activities around issues of science and technology in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. While at The Post, Weiss wrote more than 1,000 news and feature articles about advances in science and technology and their economic, societal, and ethical implications. His awards include the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing’s Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting and the National Association of Science Writers’ Science and Society Award.

Weiss earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a license in medical technology with the American Society for Clinical Pathology. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife Natalie Angier, the New York Times science writer and author.

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About This Media Briefing

Gene drives represent a new take on genetic engineering that offers previously impossible means of fighting disease-spreading insects and invasive species but also raises the specter of ecological disruption. This briefing reviewed the current status of gene-drive technology, applications under consideration, and related ethical, legal, and regulatory issues.