Todd Kuiken

Senior Research Scholar; GES Center Executive Committee Member

Genetic Engineering and Society Center


Email: | Phone: (919) 515-2593 | Twitter: @drtoddoliver | CV


Dr. Todd Kuiken’s work explores the scientific and technological frontier, stimulating discovery and bringing new tools to bear on public policy challenges that emerge as science advances. Since leaving the “field”, where he conducted environmental research on the bio-geo-chemical cycling of mercury, he has been exploring the environmental opportunities/risks associated with emerging technologies. He believes that effective environmental policy is more than just examining the science underpinning technologies, but the philosophies, economics and public perceptions enveloping the ecosystems in which those technologies are designed to impact, directly or indirectly.

Prior to joining the faculty of NC State University, he spent eight years at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program where he led the Synthetic Biology Project along with other emerging technology related projects, such as the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. During that time, he developed and managed numerous projects related to the environment and public policy; ranging from synthetic biology to rare earth materials. Including developing the first research agenda for the ecological implications of synthetic biology, a program with the burgeoning Do-It-Yourself Biology community, and produced a series of reports exploring the impacts of synthetic biology on the environment. That work, in part, led to his appointment to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ad-Hoc-Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on synthetic biology.

Since moving to NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center, he has expanded this work to include numerous international environmental and conservation related projects; as well as global study on the biosafety, security and overall impacts of the DIYbio community. In addition he was commissioned by the U.N. FAO to assess how changes in science and technology will affect the structure, function and viability of the U.N. Plant Treaty. And was appointed to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) technical and policy task force on synthetic biology and gene drives, which culminated in the first comprehensive assessment of the impacts of synthetic biology and gene drives on conservation. More recently he was appointed to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment for the Cartagena Protocol.

He plays an active role in the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition as a long time judge and by serving as the co-chair of its sustainable development goals program and as the former co-chair of the human practices program.


PhD, Tennessee Tech University; MA, George Washington University; BS, Rochester Institute of Technology


Environmental policy, Emerging technologies, DIYbio, Governance

Grants & Projects

  • 2013 – NSF, Directorate for Biological Sciences, Creating A Research Agenda for the Ecological Implications of Synthetic Biology, Grant number: 1337431, $224,000
  • 2014 – Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Synthetic Biology Project, Grant number: 2014-3-05, $500,000
    2016 – Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Facilitating interaction between the emerging ‘makers in biology’ ecosystem and formal regulatory institutions to ensure safe, responsible innovation, Grant number: 73500, $300,058
  • 2017 – Open Philanthropy Project Fund, DIY biosafety and biosecurity landscape, Grant number: 2017-170797 (5384), $706,750
  • 2019 – NC State, R.L. Rabb Endowment, Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Futures, $10,000

Featured In

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Highlighted Publications

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Serr, M.E., Valdez, R.X., Barnhill-Dilling, K.S., Godwin, J., Kuiken, T., Booker, M. 2020. Scenario analysis on the use of rodenticides and sex-biasing gene drives for the removal of invasive house mice on islands. Biol Invasions. Available at:

George, D., Kuiken T., Delborne, J. 2019. Articulating free, prior and informed consent for engineered gene drives. Proc. R. Soc. B. 286: 20191484. Available at:

Kuiken, T. 2019. What Can Biotech Art Teach Us about Nature and Ourselves? In: Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Futures. Available at:

Lai, H.E., Canavan, C., Cameron, L., Moore, L., Danchenko, M., Kuiken, T., Sekeyova, Z., Freemont, S. 2019. Synthetic Biology and the United Nations. Trends in Biotechnology. Vol. 37(11). Available at:

Kuiken, T. ,Perello, E., Esvelt, K., Aphey, L. 2019. What does synthetic biology and gene drive have to do with biodiversity conservation? In: Redford, K.H., Brooks, T.M., Macfarlane, N.B.W. and Adams, J.S. (eds.) (2019). Genetic frontiers for conservation: An assessment of synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation. Technical assessment. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Available at:

Kuiken, T., Perello, E., Eggermont, H. 2019. Biodiversity conservation implications of synthetic biology applications not directly intended for conservation benefit. In: Redford, K.H., Brooks, T.M., Macfarlane, N.B.W. and Adams, J.S. (eds.) (2019). Genetic frontiers for conservation: An assessment of synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation. Technical assessment. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Available at:

Millett, P.; Binz, T., Weiss Evans, S., Kuiken, T., Oye, K., Palmer, M.J., van der Vlugt, C., Yambao, K., Yu, S. 2019. Developing a Comprehensive, Adaptive, and International Biosafety and Biosecurity Program for Advanced Biotechnology: The IGEM Experience. Applied Biosafety. Vol. 24(2).

Boeke, J., Church, G., Hessel, A., Kelley, N.J., Arkin, A., Cai, Y., Carlson, R., Chakravarti, A., Cornish, V.W., Holt, L., Isaacs, F.J., Kuiken, T., Lajoie, M., Lessor, T., Lunshof, J., Maurano, M.T., Mitchell, L.A., Rine, J., Sanjana, N.E., Silver, P.A., Valle, D., Wang, H., Way, J.C., Yang, L. 2016. The Genome Project-Write. Science. June, 2016.

Kuiken, T. 2016. Governance: Learn from DIY biologists. Nature. Vol. 531, 167-168.

Vance, M. E., Kuiken, T., Vejerano, E.P., McGinnis, S.P., Hochella, M.F., Rejeski, D., Hull, M.S. 2015. Nanotechnology in the real world: Redeveloping the nanomaterial consumer products inventory. Beilstein J. Nanotechnol. 6, 1769–1780.

Oye, K., Esvelt, K., Appleton, E., Catteruccia, F., Church, G., Kuiken, T., Lightfoot, S., McNamara, J., Smidler, A., Collins, J. P. 2014. Regulating Gene Drives. Science. Vol. 345(6197).

Kuiken, T., Dana, G.V., Oye, K., Rejeski, D. 2014. Shaping Ecological Risk Research for Synthetic Biology. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 191-199.

Dana, G.V., Kuiken, T., Rejeski, D., Snow, A.A. 2012. Four steps to avoid a synthetic biology disaster. Nature, 483, No. 7387, 29.

Stamenkovic, J., Weisberg, P., Pillai, R., Ericksen, J., Kuiken, T., Lindberg, S., Zhang, H., Rytuba, J., Gustin, M. 2009. Application of a rule-based model to estimate mercury exchange for three background biomes in the continental United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 43, 4989-4994.

Karn, B., Kuiken, T., and Otto, M. 2009. Nanotechnology and in Situ Remediation: A Review of the Benefits and Potential Risks. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(12).

Kuiken, T., Zhang, H., Gustin, M., Lindberg, S. 2008. Mercury emission from terrestrial background surfaces in the eastern USA: I. Air/surface exchange of mercury within a southeastern deciduous forest (Tennessee) over one year. Applied Geochemistry, 23(3), 345-355.

Kuiken, T., Gustin, M., Zhang, H., Lindberg, S., Sedinger, B. 2008. Mercury emission from terrestrial background surfaces in the eastern USA: II. Air/surface exchange of mercury within forests from South Carolina to New England. Applied Geochemistry, 23(3), 356-368.

Zhang, H, Lindberg, S.E., Kuiken, T. 2008. Mysterious diel cycles of mercury emission from soils held in the dark at constant temperature. Atmospheric Environment, 42, 5424-5433.

Zhang, H, Dill, C, Kuiken, T, Ensor, M, Crocker, W. 2006. Change of Dissolved Gaseous Mercury (DGM) Concentrations in a Southern Reservoir Lake (Tennessee, USA) Following Seasonal Variation of Solar Radiation. Environmental Science & Technology, 40, 2114-2119.

Dill C, Kuiken T, Zhang H., Ensor M. 2006. Diurnal Variation of Dissolved Gaseous Mercury (DGM) Levels in a Southern Reservoir Lake (Tennessee, USA) in relation to solar radiation. The Science of The Total Environment, 357, 176-193.

Southworth, G., Lindberg, S.E., Bogle, M.A., Zhang, H., Kuiken, T., Price, Reinhart, D., and Sfeir, H. 2005. Airborne emissions of mercury from municipal solid waste II: Potential losses of airborne mercury prior to landfill. Journal of Air & Waste Management Association, 55:870-877.

Lindberg, S.E., Southworth, G.R., Bogle, M.A., Blasing, T.J., Zhang, H., Kuiken, T., Price, J., Reinhart, D., Sfeir, H., Owens, J., Roy, K. 2005. Airborne emissions of mercury from municipal solid waste I: New measurements from six operating landfills in Florida. Journal of Air & Waste Management Association, 55:859-869.

Lindberg, S., Zhang, H., Vette, A., Gustin, M., Barnett, M., Kuiken, T. 2002. Dynamic flux chamber measurement of gaseous mercury emission fluxes over soils: II. Effect of flushing flow rate and verification of a two-resistance exchange interface model. Atmospheric Environment, 36, 847-859.