President Obama Reappoints Gutmann and Wagner

February 17, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues today learned that the White House has announced the reappointment and re-designation of Amy Gutmann, Ph.D. as Chair and James W. Wagner, Ph.D. as Vice Chair of the Commission. Drs. Gutmann and Wagner have led the Commission since November 2009. 

Since then, at the President’s request, the Commission has advised the White House on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology; assessed the rules that currently protect human subjects in research; and it completed an independent investigation into the specifics of the U.S. Public Health Service STD experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s.  The Commission’s reports can be found here:

New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies

Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research

"Ethically Impossible" STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948

The Commission is currently working on three additional projects: whole genome sequencing, neuroethics, and medical countermeasures in children.   First, the Commission is reviewing the pressing problems raised by the emergence of whole genome sequencing as an addition to clinical care and genetic research. Second, the Commission is considering the issue of neuroethics as it is related to notions of the person and the implications of advances in neuroimaging.  Finally, the Commission recently received a request from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for ethical advice on the development of medical countermeasures for children.

Dr. Amy Gutmann is the President of the University of Pennsylvania and the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, positions she has held since 2004.  In 2009, President Obama appointed Dr. Gutmann Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.  Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gutmann held a variety of positions at Princeton University, including Provost of the University (2001 – 2004); Founding Director of the University Center for Human Values (1990 – 1995 and 1998 – 2001); Director of the Program in Ethics and Public Affairs (1990 – 1995 and 1997 – 2000); and Dean of the Faculty (1995 – 1997).  Dr. Gutmann serves on several boards and commissions, including as a member of the Board of Directors for the Carnegie Corporation of New York and as a member of National Constitution Center Board of Trustees.  A recipient of numerous awards and honors, Dr. Gutmann received the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, the Harvard University Centennial Medal, and, in 2011, was appointed to the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences established by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Gutmann holds a B.A. from Harvard-Radcliffe College, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Dr. James W. Wagner serves as President of Emory University, a position he has held since 2003.  In 2009, President Obama appointed Dr. Wagner Vice Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.  Prior to joining Emory University, Dr. Wagner served as Dean, Provost, University Vice President, and Interim President of Case Western Reserve University from 1998 to 2003.  Throughout his time at Case Western, Dr. Wagner was also a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.  From 1984 to 1997, Dr. Wagner taught Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering from 1993 to 1997 and held a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.  Prior to joining academia, Dr. Wagner was an Electronics Engineer from 1975 to 1984 at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Dr. Wagner has chaired several conferences on nondestructive evaluation, and served on the National Research Council's National Materials Advisory Board.  Dr. Wagner received the Region III President’s Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators in 2011, and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009.  Dr. Wagner holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Delaware, an M.S. in Clinical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.

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