U.S. Frontiers in Biotech: Interview with Abigail Kukura about Strategy, Science, and the Road Ahead

by Andrii Buvailo, PhD          Interview

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Biotechnology is more than just an emerging scientific frontier, it also impacts global economy, competition, and societal transformation. To learn about a more expanded context of biotech innovations in the US economy, geopolitics, and society, I asked several questions to Abigail Kukura, the Director of Future Technology Platforms at the Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP). 

Founded Dr. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, SCSP is a non-partisan, non-profit initiative with a clear mission: to make recommendations to strengthen America’s long-term competitiveness as artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies are reshaping our national security, economy, and society. 

Abigail's unique position—combining international security strategy with biotech—enables her to see the broader picture beyound just technological progress; As you read on, you'll gain insights into not just where biotechnology might take us, but how it's reshaping the global stage.

Andrii: Abigail, can you share a bit about your personal journey into the biotech sector and what inspired you to take on the role of Director, Future Technology Platforms at the SCSP?

Abigail Kukura, Director, Future Technology Platforms at the Special Competitive Studies ProjectAbigail: My education and experience has been aimed at international security strategy and policymaking. I have always particularly enjoyed working at the intersection of various disciplines and bringing the right actors together to build bridges and translate ideas into action. With that in mind, I joined SCSP because it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to help shape policy at the intersection of technology and national security. Two years into my work here, it has been amazing to dive into biotechnology and learn from those driving the cutting edge of the field. I see my role as helping to translate those insights to policymakers and get them excited about the promise of biotechnology and how it will reshape our world in ways that we can only begin to see today.

 

Andrii: The Special Competitive Studies Project was initiated by Dr. Eric Schmidt. From your perspective, what is the core mission of the SCSP, and how does it align with America's broader goals in emerging technologies?

Abigail: The core mission of SCSP is to make recommendations to bolster U.S. competitiveness for an age in which emerging technologies like AI, biotechnology, and more are transforming our economy, society, and national security.

Our work takes its inspiration from two historical projects: one near and one far. Its near history is the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, a congressionally-mandated commission that was co-chaired by Dr. Eric Schmidt and directed by Ylli Bajraktari from 2019-2021 with a focus on the national security implications of AI. Towards the end of that timeframe, Dr. Schmidt was working on a book with Dr. Henry Kissinger called The Age of AI. Dr. Kissinger told Dr. Schmidt about a project that he led in the 1950s called the Special Studies Project (SSP), whose mission was to help prepare the nation for a new era in great power competition where nuclear technology was poised to transform our national security, economy, and society. Dr. Kissinger pointed out that we are at a similar pivot point today, in which many transformational technologies are on the horizon. In contrast to the 1950s, however, it is the private sector rather than government driving the cutting edge of those fields.

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