Ken Oye

Ken Oye

MIT Political Science, USA

Kenneth Oye is a Professor of Political Science (School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences) and Data Systems and Society (School of Engineering) and Director of the Program on Emerging Technologies (PoET), with work on international relations, political economy and technology policy. His work in international relations includes Cooperation under Anarchy, Economic Discrimination and Political Exchange, and four “Eagle” monographs on American foreign policy, and advisory work for the Petersen Institute, UNIDO and US Treasury, Commerce and EXIM. His work in technology policy has focused on adaptive management of risks associated with synthetic biology, pharmaceuticals, the internet and nuclear energy, with papers in Nature, Science, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Politics and the Life Sciences and Issues in Science and Technology. Professor Oye is a faculty affiliate of the MIT Synthetic Biology Center, the Center for Biomedical Innovation, and the Internet Policy Research Initiative. He chairs biosafety committees for iGEM and the Broad Institute Biofoundry and has served as an invited expert to the UN BWC, WHO, PCAST and NRC. He is a recipient of the Levitan Award for Excellence in Teaching (2011), the Graduate Council Teaching Award (1998) and the Technology and Policy Program Faculty Appreciation Award (2003). Before coming to MIT, Professor Oye taught at Harvard University, the University of California, Princeton University and Swarthmore College. He holds a BA in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College with Highest Honors and a Ph.D in Political Science from Harvard University with the Chase Dissertation Prize.

Thursday, Sep 8

14:30 - 16:30
Talk during Session 3 | Organisms navigating a changing environment

Title of talk : Governing risks and benefits of biotechnology: Exemplary cases and cautionary tales


Rapid advances in foundational biotechnologies have provided the base for an extraordinary range of novel applications.  Advances include improvements in DNA sequencing and synthesis, the creation of data sets that combine genomic and medical information,  the application of AI methods to data analysis, and the development of powerful editing tools including CRISPR and base editing.  Novel applications include:

  • pathogen modification, including mousepox, H5N1 and COVID;
  • materials synthesis of fuel, food, and licit and lllicit drugs;
  • therapeutics including SCGT, regenerative medicine, HGGT and xenotransplantation;  and
  • environmental modification through in situ bioremediation, deextinctikon, and suppression of disease vectors.

The talk will discuss how security, safety, environmental and ethical issues have been addressed in the past, highlighting cautionary tales and exemplary cases; and then offer lessons for managing tradeoffs across benefits and risks of emerging applications.


Event Session