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Engineering Biology in Cambridge

Photo of Dr Lalitha Sundaram next to a green background with the UKRI and HM Government logos and white text reading 'Building a Secure and Resilient World'

Congratulations to Dr Lalitha Sundaram (CSER), who has been appointed to the UK’s Biological Security Leadership Council and has received a UKRI Policy Fellowship to explore the changing landscape of life sciences.

With a background in biological research, Dr Sundaram’s work explores biological risk in the context of responsible research and innovation (RRI). Questions in this area include:

  • What are the potential risks of new technologies and how can we mitigate them?

  • How can we use new technologies in a socially responsible way?

  • How should we govern and regulate new technologies to reduce risks and enable the maximum benefit for society?

From October 2023, Dr Sundaram has joined a group of 44 academic fellows on secondment to UK government departments. She is working with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office under their “Building a secure and resilient world” theme to explore the changing landscape of life sciences.1

In September 2023, Dr Sundaram was also appointed to the newly-established UK Biosecurity Leadership Council2. The council aims to ensure the safe and responsible use of engineering biology in the UK, and its first task is to support work on how the responsible development of DNA-based technology should be governed.

Members of the council will help ministers and officials build their understanding of how industry-changing tools like AI and new techniques for engineering DNA are being used, the potential risks they pose, and how those can be mitigated in a practical and proportional way.” Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Dr Sundaram is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER). Her work explores biological risk, with a particular emphasis on regulation and governance. She investigates risks – real or perceived – surrounding emerging biotechnologies such as synthetic biology. Her work also looks at the impact of technology convergence, for example the combination of AI and engineering biology.4


Learn more about Dr Sundaram’s work, the UKRI Policy Fellowships programme and the UK Biosecurity Leadership Council.

Author Information

Dr. Stephanie Norwood
Coordinator and Events Manager
Engineering Biology IRC
University of Cambridge

Credits & Acknowledgements

Dr Sundaram’s work is funded by UKRI.
Image Credit: Dr Lalitha Sundaram