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Program Directors:

Mailing Address:

Siebel Scholars Foundation
1300 Seaport Blvd., Suite 400
Redwood City, CA 94063


(650) 299-5260


Frances Arnold

Dick & Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Bioengineering, CalTech

Frances H. Arnold is the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology.  Her research focuses on protein evolution, in nature and in the laboratory.  She pioneered methods of directed enzyme evolution and has used evolutionary approaches to engineer a wide array of novel biocatalysts. Dr. Arnold received a B.S. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University in 1979 and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1985.  Co-inventor on more than 30 issued U.S. patents, she has served as science advisor to 10 companies, including Gevo, Inc., which she co-founded in 2005 to develop new microbial routes to producing fuels and chemicals from renewable resources. Frances Arnold has received numerous awards, including most recently the prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering (2011).  She is a member of all three membership organizations of the National Academies—the National Academy of Engineering (2000), the Institute of Medicine (2004), and the National Academy of Sciences (2008).  She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011.

Arthur Caplan

Director, Center for Bioethics & Sidney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Arthur Caplan is currently the Emmanuel and Robert Hart Director of the Center for Bioethics and the Sidney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Prior to coming to Penn in 1994, Caplan taught at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia University.  He was the Associate Director of the Hastings Center from 1984-1987.

Born in Boston, Caplan did his undergraduate work at Brandeis University, and did his graduate work at Columbia University where he received a Ph.D in the history and philosophy of science in 1979.

Caplan is the author or editor of thirty books and over 550 papers in refereed journals.  His most recent books are Smart Mice Not So Smart People (Rowman Littlefield, 2006) and the Penn Guide to Bioethics (Springer, 2009).

He has served on a number of national and international committees including as the Chair, National Cancer Institute Biobanking Ethics Working Group; the Chair of the Advisory Committee to the United Nations on Human Cloning; the Chair of the Advisory Committee to the Department of Health and Human Services on Blood Safety and Availability; a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses; the special advisory committee to the International Olympic Committee on genetics and gene therapy; the ethics committee of the American Society of Gene Therapy; chair of the advisory committee on bioethics for GlaxoSmithKline and the special advisory panel to the National Institutes of Mental Health on human experimentation on vulnerable subjects. And most recently was the Co-Director of the Joint Council of Europe/United Nations Study on Trafficking in Organs and Body Parts. 

He is a member of the board of directors of The Franklin Institute, Tengion, the National Center for Policy Research on Women and Families, the Iron Disorders Foundation and the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Ethics Committee.  He is on the Board of Visitors of the Columbia University School of Nursing.

Caplan writes a twice monthly column on bioethics for  He is a weekly commentator on bioethics and health care issues for Fox 29 in Philadelphia and for WebMD/Medscape.  He appears frequently as a guest and commentator on various other national and international media outlets.

Caplan is the recipient of many awards and honors including the McGovern Medal of the American Medical Writers Association and the Franklin Award from the City of Philadelphia.  He received the Patricia Price Browne Prize in Biomedical Ethics for 2011.  He was a Person of the Year-2001 from USA Today.  He was described as one of the ten most influential people in science by Discover magazine in 2008.  He has also been honored as one of the fifty most influential people in American health care by Modern Health Care magazine, one of the ten most influential people in America in biotechnology by the National Journal, one of the ten most influential people in the ethics of biotechnology by the editors of Nature Biotechnology. 

He holds seven honorary degrees from colleges and medical schools.  He is a fellow of the Hastings Center, the NY Academy of Medicine, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the American College of Legal Medicine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Alta Charo

Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law & Bioethics, University of Wisconsin Madison

R. Alta Charo (B.A. biology, Harvard 1979; J.D. Columbia, 1982) is the Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin schools of law and medicine at Madison, where she is on the faculty of the Law School and the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the medical school.  She is an elected member of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine, and served on President Obama's transition team, where she was a member of the HHS review team, focusing her attention particularly on transition issues related to NIH, FDA, bioethics, stem cell policy, and women's reproductive health.  She was on leave 2009 2011 to serve as a senior policy advisor on emerging technology issues in the Office of the Commissioner at the US Food & Drug Administration.

Professor Charo offers courses on public health law, bioethics, biotechnology law, food & drug law, reproductive rights, torts, and legislative drafting.  She is the author of nearly 100 articles, book chapters and government reports on law and policy related to environmental protection, reproductive health, new reproductive technologies, medical genetics, stem cell research, science funding, and research ethics. 

Charo has also served on several expert advisory boards of organizations with an interest in stem cell research, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the International Society for Stem Cell Research and WiCell, as well as on the ethics standards working group of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  Also in 2005, she helped to draft the National Academies' Guidelines for Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and in 2006 she was appointed to co chair the National Academies' Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee.

Charo's advisory committee service for the federal government includes the 1994 NIH Human Embryo Research Panel, and (1996 2001) President Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission.  At the National Academies, from 2001 2008 she was a member of the Board on Life Sciences.  She served as its liaison to the Committee on Research Standards and Practices to Prevent Destructive Applications of Biotechnology as well as its committee to develop national voluntary guidelines for stem cell research.  She also served as a member of the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Smallpox Vaccination Program Implementation and since 2006 she has served on its Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice.  In 2005 2006, she was a member of the committee to review the FDA and the U.S. national system for the assurance of drug safety. 

Gregory Conko

Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Gregory Conko is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, DC-based public interest group that studies the intersection of markets, technology, and regulation. His research focuses on food and drug regulation and the general treatment of health risks in public policy. He is also vice president of the Alabama-based AgBioWorld Foundation, which he co-founded with Tuskegee University plant genetics professor C.S. Prakash. The Foundation provides information to teachers, journalists, policymakers, and the general public about developments in plant science, biotechnology, and sustainable agriculture.

Mr. Conko served as a principal investigator for the California Council on Science and Technology’s 2002 report, Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology. His book, The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution, co-authored with Henry I. Miller, was named by Barron’s as one of the 25 best books of 2004. And in 2006, he was named by the journal Nature Biotechnology to its short list of "Who’s Who in Biotechnology." Mr. Conko earned a B.A. in political science and history from the American University and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law, where he served as articles editor of the Journal of Law, Economics & Policy.

Jay Keasling

Professor, UC Berkeley; Sr. Faculty Scientist & Assoc. Lab Director, LBNL; CEO, Joint BioEnergy Inst

Jay Keasling received his B.S. in Chemistry and Biology from the University of Nebraska in 1986; his Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1991; and did post-doctoral work in Biochemistry at Stanford University from 1991-1992. Keasling joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1992, where he is currently the Hubbard Howe Distinguished Professor of Biochemical Engineering. Keasling is also a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Berkeley, a Sr. Faculty Scientist and Associate Laboratory Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Chief Executive Officer of the Joint BioEnergy Institute. Dr. Keasling’s research focuses on engineering microorganisms for environmentally friendly synthesis of small molecules or degradation of environmental contaminants. Keasling’s laboratory has engineered bacteria and yeast to produce polymers, a precursor to the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, and advanced biofuels and soil microorganisms to accumulate uranium and to degrade nerve agents.

Michael Krasny

Host, KQED’s Forum

Michael Krasny, Ph.D., is host of KQED's award-winning Forum, a news and public affairs program that concentrates on the arts, culture, health, business, and technology.  Forum is one of KQED’s most-popular shows and the nation’s most-listened-to locally produced public radio talk show.

Before coming to KQED Public Radio in 1993, Dr. Krasny hosted a nighttime talk program for KGO Radio and co-anchored the weekly KGO television show Nightfocus.  He hosted Bay TV's Take Issue, a nightly news analysis show, programs for KQED Public Television, KRON television, and NPR, and did news commentary for KTVU television.  He has also served as host of NPR's Talk of the Nation.

Since 1970, he has been a professor of English at San Francisco State University and has taught at Stanford University and University of California, San Francisco.  He is the author of Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest, published in fall 2010, and Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life, coauthor of the textbook Sound Ideas, and creator of the DVD presentation “Masterpieces of Short Fiction.”  He is a widely published scholar and literary critic, a fiction writer, and a guest and frequent interviewer on the City Arts & Lectures stage.  He has worked widely as a facilitator and host in the corporate sector and as moderator for a host of major nonprofit events.

Dr. Krasny has interviewed many of the leading newsmakers and cultural icons of our time, including former President Jimmy Carter, Cesar Chavez, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Francis Ford Coppola, Don DeLillo, Newt Gingrich, Vice President Al Gore, Norman Mailer, and Toni Morrison.  He, also, interviewed President Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, Nancy Pelosi, Robert Redford, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Updike, and countless others. 

Dr. Krasny is the recipient of many awards and honors, including The S.Y. Agnon Gold Medal for “Intellectual Distinction,” The Eugene Block Award for “Human Rights Journalism,” “The Inclusiveness in Media” Award from The National Conference for Community and Justice, and a Koret Foundation Fellowship.  He has been named best talk show host by Focus magazine, a number of Bay Area newspapers, The San Francisco Publicity Club, and Citysearch.

Michael Krasny received his B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. degrees from Ohio University, where he is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and his Ph.D. degree from The University of Wisconsin.

Ed Penhoet

Director, Alta Partners; Member, PCAST; Former CEO, Chiron Corporation

Ed Penhoet, Ph. D. is a Director in Alta Partners which he joined in 2000. Dr. Penhoet is currently a member of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST). He was a member of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine where he served as the Vice Chairman from 2004 until 2008. From July 1998 until July 2002, Dr. Penhoet served as the Dean of the School of Public Health and as a Professor of Public Health and of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a co-founder of the Chiron Corporation, a biotechnology company, where he served as President, Chief Executive Officer and a director from its formation in 1981 until April 1998. From 1971 until 1981, Dr. Penhoet was a faculty member of the Biochemistry Department at the University of California, Berkeley. From 2004 until 2008, he served as President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation where he continues to serve on the board.  He serves on the board of Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Dr. Penhoet is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and The American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Dr. Penhoet received a B.A. in Biology from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington.

Dr. Penhoet currently serves on the board of directors of several private biotechnology companies including ChemoCentryx, Immune Design, Metabolex, Scynexis and Veloxis.

Arti Rai

Elvin R. Latty Professor of Law, Duke Law School

Arti Rai, Elvin R. Latty Professor of Law at Duke Law School and member, Duke Institute for Genome Science and Policy, is an authority in patent law, administrative law, and innovation policy. Rai has also taught at Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of San Diego law schools.

Rai's academic research on innovation policy in areas such as synthetic biology, green technology, drug development, and software has been funded by NIH, the Kauffman Foundation, and Chatham House. She has published widely in both peer-reviewed journals and law reviews, including Nature Biotechnology, PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Columbia, Georgetown, and Northwestern law reviews. She is the editor of Intellectual Property Law and Biotechnology: Critical Concepts (Edward Elgar, 2011) and has also co-authored a casebook on law and the mental health system.

From 2009-2010, Rai took a leave of absence from Duke Law School to serve as the Administrator of the Office of External Affairs at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Prior to that time, she had served on President-Elect Obama’s transition team reviewing the USPTO and as an expert advisor to the Department of Commerce’s Office of General Counsel. Prior to entering academia, Rai clerked for the Honorable Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California; was a litigation associate at Jenner & Block (doing patent litigation as well as other litigation); and was a litigator at the Federal Programs Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Division.

Rai has served as a peer reviewer for Science, Research Policy, the Journal of Legal Studies, various National Academy of Sciences reports on intellectual property, and various NIH study sections. She has also testified before Congress on innovation policy issues and regularly advises federal agencies on policy issues (including intellectual property policy issues) raised by the research that they fund. Recently, her work has focused on advising the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Rai is currently the chair of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Administrative Law Section of the American Bar Association. She is also a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

Rai graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, with a B.A. in biochemistry and history (history and science), attended Harvard Medical School for the 1987-1988 academic year, and received her J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1991. Rai's moot court team at Harvard Law School won Best Brief and Team honors at the school's prestigious Ames Moot Court Competition.

Vandana Shiva

World-Renowned Environmental Leader and Thinker

Born in India, Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental leader and thinker. Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, she is the author of many books, including Water Wars: Pollution, Profits, and Privatization, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, Monocultures of the Mind, The Violence of the Green Revolution, and Staying Alive.

Shiva is a leader in the International Forum on Globalization, along with Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin. She has addressed the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, as well as the recent World Economic Forum in Melbourne. Time magazine recognized Shiva as an environmental hero, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia. Shiva is a recipient of Global 500 Award of the United Nations and Earth Day International Award. She has also received the Alternative Nobel Prize Right Livelihood Award and is a member of the Order of the Golden Ark.

The founder of Navdanya “nine seeds,” a movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds, she also set up the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology in her mother’s cowshed in 1997. Its studies have validated the ecological value of traditional farming and been instrumental in fighting destructive development projects in India.

Before becoming an activist, Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists. She holds a master’s degree in the philosophy of science and a PhD in particle physics.

Thomas M. Siebel

Chairman of the Siebel Foundation, First Virtual Group, and C3

Thomas Siebel is the chairman of First Virtual Group, a diversified holding company with interests in commercial real estate, agribusiness, global investment management, and philanthropy. Mr. Siebel is the founder and chairman of C3, an energy and emissions management company.

Mr. Siebel was the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Siebel Systems, one of the world's leading software companies, which merged with Oracle Corporation in January 2006. Founded in 1993, Siebel Systems rapidly became a global leader in application software with more than 8,000 employees in 32 countries, over 4,500 corporate customers, and annual revenue in excess of $2 billion.

Before founding Siebel Systems, Mr. Siebel served as chief executive officer of Gain Technology, a multimedia software company that merged with Sybase in December 1992. From 1984 through 1990, he was an executive at Oracle Corp., where he held a number of senior management positions.

Mr. Siebel serves on the board of advisors for the Stanford University College of Engineering, the University of Illinois College of Engineering, and the University of California at Berkeley College of Engineering, and is a member of the Princeton University Board of Trustees. He is a director of the University of Illinois Foundation and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and is the chairman of the board for the American Agora Foundation. Mr. Siebel is the founder and chairman of the Meth Project Foundation and the Siebel Scholars Foundation, and chairman of the Siebel Foundation.

He is a frequent industry spokesman and the author of three books: Taking Care of eBusiness and Cyber Rules, published by Doubleday, and Virtual Selling, published by The Free Press.

In 2002, the Business Executives for National Security presented Mr. Siebel with the David Packard Award for his achievements as a technology entrepreneur and his contributions to national security. In 2000 and 2001, he was recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the Top 25 Managers in the World.

In 1999, 2000, and 2001, Fortune magazine recognized Siebel Systems as the fastest, third fastest, and second fastest growing company in the United States, respectively. Call Center Magazine inducted him to its Hall of Fame in 2000 in recognition for contributions to the business and technology of customer service.

Mr. Siebel is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in History, an M.B.A., and a Master of Science in Computer Science.

Craig Venter

Founder, Chairman, and President, J. Craig Venter Institute; Founder and CEO, Synthetic Genomics Inc

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., is regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his numerous invaluable contributions to genomic research. He is Founder, Chairman, and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit, research organization with approximately 400 scientists and staff dedicated to human, microbial, plant, synthetic and environmental genomic research, and the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics.

Dr. Venter is also Founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company dedicated to commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global needs such as new sources of energy and next generation vaccines.

Dr. Venter began his formal education after a tour of duty as a Navy Corpsman in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After earning both a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego, he was appointed professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health campus where he developed Expressed Sequence Tags or ESTs, a revolutionary new strategy for rapid gene discovery. In 1992 Dr. Venter founded The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR, now part of JCVI), a not-for-profit research institute, where in 1995 he and his team decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, using his new whole genome shotgun technique.

In 1998, Dr. Venter founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed. This research culminated with the February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal, Science. He and his team at Celera also sequenced the fruit fly, mouse and rat genomes.

Dr. Venter and his team at the Venter Institute continue to blaze new trails in genomics. He and his team have sequenced and analyzed hundreds of genomes, and have published numerous important papers covering such areas as environmental genomics, the first complete diploid human genome, and the groundbreaking advance in creating the first self replicating bacterial cell constructed entirely with synthetic DNA.

Dr. Venter, one of the most frequently cited scientists, is the author of more than 250 research articles. He is also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, public honors, and scientific awards, including the 2008 United States National Medal of Science, the 2002 Gairdner Foundation International Award and the 2001 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. Dr. Venter is a member of numerous prestigious scientific organizations including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Society for Microbiology.

About the 2011 Conference

The 2011 Siebel Scholars conference focused on Synthetic Biology—the development of standard tools and processes through which organisms with new or enhanced characteristics are created. Leveraging several scientific disciplines—including chemistry, biology, and engineering—this nascent field is poised to significantly impact how we feed and care for our exponentially growing global population. Throughout the weekend, conference attendees convened with world-renowned scientific, industry, ethics, and policy experts to explore the science, applications, benefits, and risks of synthetic biology, then shared conclusions and opportunities.

The Siebel Scholars are grateful for the generosity of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for hosting the 2011 Siebel Scholars conference. Opened in 2006, the Janelia Farm Research Campus occupies 600 wooded acres and is home to 250 resident staff, who perform cutting-edge biotechnology research in a  state-of-the-art, 180,000 square foot facility.

The conference weekend kicked off Friday evening with a welcome reception at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, housing thousands of aircraft and space exploration artifacts from throughout history, suspended as if in mid-flight over 10 stories high. Dr. Jay Keasling, CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute, provided an overview of synthetic biology—its history, approaches and advances, and challenges.

Saturday morning opened with an introduction by Dr. R. Alta Charo, Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, and biotechnology policy advisor to President Obama. Professor Charo then joined Dr. Keasling for a panel discussion on the implications of synthetic biology on food production, and its ethical ramifications. Other panelists included Draper Prize winner Dr. Frances Arnold, environmental leader Dr. Vandana Shiva, and policy advocate Gregory Conko. Dr. Michael Krasny, the host of KQED’s award-winning program Forum, moderated the day’s panel discussions.

The Saturday afternoon panel examined synthetic biology’s impact on healthcare, with perspectives from genomic researcher Dr. J. Craig Venter, Chiron Co-founder and former CEO Dr. Edward Penhoet, bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan, and intellectual property specialist Arti Rai. These experts discussed emerging issues related to commercialization, ownership, deployment, and regulation of health-related synthetic biology applications. Following, Siebel Scholars working in synthetic biology led an interactive discussion with audience members about the challenges and opportunities they face.

The Saturday evening event was held at House of Sweden, home of the Swedish and Icelandic Embassies, and the only venue with panoramic views of the Potomac River, Kennedy Center, Air Force Memorial, and the Watergate Complex. While taking in the stunning contemporary Scandinavian architecture, guests were entertained by the Grammy Award-winning Isley Brothers.

The final day of the conference began with a keynote address from Dr. Venter. The audience then broke into work groups to discuss opportunities for the future of synthetic biology.