Rocco Casagrande, PhD
Dr. Rocco Casagrande began his public sector career as a U.N. weapons inspector in pre-war Iraq where he led the U.N.’s biological analysis laboratories. Today, as a founder and Managing Director of Gryphon Scientific, he is a widely respected thought leader on risk assessment. A life scientist, with a degree from Cornell in biology and chemistry and an MIT Ph.D. in biology, Dr. Casagrande has a particular interest in the benefits and threats of emerging biotechnologies-innovations that may have transformative effects on life sciences but raise considerable challenges for policy and governance. In one project, Dr. Casagrande and his team studied whether and how to regulate the synthetic DNA industry to minimize the risk that a terrorist group could synthesize and weaponize the genome of a dangerous viral or bacterial agent. To balance the positive, environmental, industrial and medical applications of the technology against the biosecurity risks, Dr. Casagrande proposed voluntary guidelines for screening customers that have become standard industry practice. Similarly, Dr. Casagrande designed a study to address the risks and benefits of engineered influenza viruses after NIH imposed a moratorium on all research to make pathogens of pandemic potential more transmissible or pathogenic.