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Synthetic Biology in Cambridge



Catherine Rhodes is Academic Project Manager at CSER, working across its research projects. Her work has broadly focused on the interactions between and respective roles of science and governance in addressing major global challenges. In the context of extreme technological risks, Catherine is particularly interested in understanding the intersection and combination of risk stemming from technologies and risk stemming from governance (or lack of it). She has particular expertise in international governance of biotechnology, including biosecurity and broader risk management issues.

Catherine has a background in international relations, but has engaged in extensive interdisciplinary work. Her PhD was funded as part of a Project to Strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention at the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre, and she retains a strong interest in international actions to prevent misuse of bioscience. This includes recent contributions to projects on the development of biosecurity and ethics education, and on improving science and technology review in the biological and chemical weapons control regimes.

Catherine worked for the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at Manchester University from 2008-2015, where her work included: elaborating the meaning and content of scientific responsibility at the global level; investigation of science advisory processes in international organisations; and a substantial study of the international governance of genetic resources, which has significant implications for the use of biosciences (including synthetic biology) in managing major global challenges.

The work of the SynBioSRI, for example in its interest in the role of open technologies and responsible innovation, is very relevant to advancing the field’s capacity to contribute to addressing global challenges in a sustainable and more equitable way. CSER has productive collaborations with the SynBioSRI, with highlights including the recent horizon scan on biological engineering.

Catherine coordinates the work of the Managing Extreme Technological Risks project, supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation.


Key publications: 

Rhodes, C. (December 2017) “Risks and Risk Management in Systems of International Governance”, Proceedings of the First International Colloquium on Catastrophic and Existential Risk, John B. Garrick (ed), 99-113.

Rhodes, C. (8 May 2017) “Make the Bioweapons Treaty Work”, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Rhodes, C. “The Future Governance of Biotechnology”, Chapter 18 in Dando et al (eds.), Preventing Biological Threats: What You Can Do. Draft published online December 2015 -

Rhodes, C. (April 2015) “The Relevance of Genetic Resources Governance to Synthetic Biology”, Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine – An International Journal, 5(2):161-183. 

Rhodes, C. (July 2014) “BTWC: Learning from Alternative Models of Science and Technology Review”. Policy Paper 7 for the Biochemical Security 2030 Project. Available through outputs/.

Rhodes, C. (November 2013) Governance of Genetic Resources: A Guide to Navigating the Complex Global Landscape. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 

Rhodes, C. (November 2013) “Global Scientific Responsibility (Responsabilidad CientificaGlobal)”, Revista BioCiencia – Autonomous University of Nayarit, Vol. 2(3). 

Rhodes, C. (April 2013) “Sovereign Wrongs: Ethics in the Governance of Pathogenic Genetic Resources”, Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine - An International Journal, 3(103):97-114.  

Rhodes, C. (2010) International Governance of Biotechnology: Needs, Problems and Potential. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 

Rhodes, C. (September 2009) “Consequences of Failure to Apply International Standards for Biosafety and Biosecurity: the 2007 Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreak in the UK”. Applied Biosafety, 14(3): 144-149. 

Senior Research Associate / Academic Project Manager
The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Dr. Catherine  Rhodes

Contact Details

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