R. Alta Charo, JD
Faculty Scholars Program Committee

R. Alta Charo, JD

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

R. Alta Charo (BA biology, Harvard 1979; JD Columbia, 1982) is the Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, and the 2019-2020 Berggruen fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the IOM). Her work focuses on governance of emerging technologies, including reproductive technologies, stem cell research, genome editing, and synthetic biology.

She has served as a legislative drafter, and as a policy analyst at the former congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the US Agency for International Development. In government she served (2009-2011) as a senior policy advisor at the US Food & Drug Administration. Other government service includes membership on the 1994 NIH Human Embryo Research Panel and President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission.

At the National Academies, she co-chaired the National Academies’ Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee, and was founding co-chair of the NAS/NAM Forum on Regenerative Medicine. She was a member of the NAS/NAM Genome Editing Initiative and co-chaired its committee charged with making recommendations on the use of gene-editing for both somatic and germline (heritable) changes in humans. At present she is a member of the World Health Organization’s expert advisory committee on global governance of genome editing.

Prof. Charo was born in Brooklyn, NY. She is fond of poker, foreign language study, cats, home renovation, Harry Potter, roller coasters, Jane Austen novels, and Star Trek.

For more information, visit: https://law.wisc.edu/profiles/alta.charo@wisc.edu

Committee Member Q & A

We asked each Committee Member four questions to gain insight into who they are and what they value in bioethics scholarship and the Faculty Scholars Program.

1. What professional activity or accomplishment are you most proud of?

I worked to protect embryonic stem cell research from political backlash: advising Jamie Thomson, working on the National Bioethics Advisory Commission reports, working in 2001 to forestall congressional cloning bans, helping to initiate and lead the National Academy of Science’s effort to draft national guidelines, and helping draft President Obama’s executive order.

2. In your work, how have you engaged with people who face bioethics dilemmas in their professional activities or personal lives?

The most profound experience of my life was the six years spent helping to care for a dear friend who had Lou Gehrig’s disease, as her friend, as a legal expert on patient rights and as a bioethics expert on end of life choices

3. Who has been affected by your work in bioethics?

Through service on an Institute of Medicine committee that cleared a maternal-transmission-prevention trial of allegations of ethical misconduct, there are many children in Uganda and other parts of Africa who have been born free of HIV.

4. What do you view as the greatest strength of the Greenwall Faculty Scholars Program?

Identifying the most creative new thinkers in the field and helping them find the space and inspiration to do great work, for themselves and for the rest of us.