The ambitions of the Wellcome Leap are made clear by the woman chosen to lead it, former director of the Pentagon’s DARPA, Regina Dugan. Dugan began her career at DARPA in 1986; she led a counterterrorism task force in 1999 before leaving DARPA a year later. […]
During her tenure, she created DARPA’s now defunct Transformational Convergence Technology Office, which focused on social networks, synthetic biology, and machine intelligence. Many of the themes previously managed by that office are now overseen by DARPA’s Bological Technologies Office, which was created in 2014 and focuses on everything “from programmagable microbes to human-machine symbiosis.” The Biological Technologies Office, like Wellcome Leap, pursues a mix of “health-focused” biotechnology programs and transhumanist endeavors.
Right before leaving the top role at DARPA, Dugan greenlighted the agency’s initial investments in mRNA vaccine techology, which led to DARPA’s investments in Pfizer and Moderna shortly thereafter. The DARPA scientist who lobbied Dugan to back the program, Dan Wattendorf, now works as the director of Innovative Technology Solutions at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.