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Michael Montague, PhD
Senior Scholar, Research Scientist

Synthetic biology bioinformatics astrobiology

Michael Montague, PhD
Michael Montague, PhD

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Professional Profile

Dr. Montague is a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a Research Scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He also has a joint appointment as a Research Associate with the Future of Humanity Institute out of the University of Oxford. Dr. Montague is currently supported by a philanthropic grant from Ben Delo through Effective Giving.

Dr. Montague's work at the Center revolves around the implications of new biotechnologies to biosecurity, with an emphasis on the potential for deliberate hostile events targeting agriculture and industry rather than accidental or natural ones involving human health. He is particularly interested in the potential for novel technological responses and preparations against such threats and is thus very interested in research funding policies. He is investigating gene screening, attribution, gene drives, agricultural security, and threat models. He has contributed to red teaming exercises and to the CladeX scenario.

In conjunction with the Open Philanthropy Project and the Future of Humanity Institute, Dr. Montague has characterized potential biological existential risks, mostly artificial in nature, and designed approaches to mitigating those risks. This has included work on the feasibility of artificial light driven indoor agriculture and on addressing the attribution problem.

Dr. Montague's PhD is in microbiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but his expertise spans a variety of disciplines, including synthetic biology, bioinformatics, and astrobiology. He has worked in the field of biosecurity studying the areas of synthetic DNA sequence screening and characterization, the genetics of human performance, existential risk, and biosecurity threat models informed by recent advances in biotechnology.

Prior to joining the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, he was a Staff Scientist at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, MD, where he was part of the team that produced a living bacterial organism driven by a fully synthetic genome, and he also participated in the development of a number of the tools that have come to define the field of synthetic biology. He applied these tools when he participated in the development of rapidly deployable flu vaccine technology using gene synthesis technology.

Dr. Montague is one of a team of inventors who developed a means of encoding text data into DNA while avoiding sequences of biological activity. He is a member of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and the Mars Society.


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