Dr. Alonso Aguirre appointed to the Board on Life Sciences of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Alonso Aguirre, Associate Professor and Chair, Environmental Science and Policy. Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

Dr. A. Alonso Aguirre, Chair of the ESP department, has been appointed member of the Board on Life Sciences (BLS) of the National Academy of Sciences.

BLS serves as the National Academies’ focal point for a wide range of technical and policy topics in the life sciences, including basic biological and biomedical research, genetic technologies, biodiversity, zoonotic diseases, and biosecurity. It also organizes and oversees studies that provide advice to the government and the scientific community on the biological sciences and their impact on society. BLS deals with issues of both basic and applied science (e.g., knowledge gaps, research priorities, needed investments) and the higher-level policy concerns that flow from or build on the science. For example, BLS frequently collaborates with National Academy of Medicine units, handling the basic science while they take our results on to medical applications. BLS also maintains a long-term interest in improving biology education and in the maintenance of a robust life sciences workforce.  Because the life sciences are diverse, the projects BLS undertakes are also diverse and the mix of topics changes constantly over time. Throughout its 33- year history, BLS has produced numerous reports that have had major impacts on science and policy. In 1988, Mapping and Sequencing the Human Genome helped tip the scales in favor of proceeding with the effort to sequence the human genome. Also in 1988, the term “biodiversity” entered public usage with publication of the report Biodiversity, which drew attention to the many threats to biodiversity and its ecological importance. In 1996, The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence helped make matching DNA samples from crime scenes and suspects a reliable source of evidence in our criminal justice system. Other high impact BLS reports have included Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research (2005); The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet (2007); and A New Biology for the 21st Century (2009). Just in 2017, BLS have put out significant reports on gene drives, human genome editing, and the future products of biotechnology, all of which are receiving considerable attention from the scientific and sponsor communities. BSL is developing a research agenda on One Health, for which Dr. Aguirre’s expertise would be invaluable.