The LEAP organizing team is the foundation that anchors LEAP and its activities.
MEGAN J. PALMER
Founder, Executive Director
Megan’s work seeks to advance practices and policies for the responsible development of biotechnology. She is the founder and executive director of LEAP, which she envisioned while serving as Deputy Director of Policy and Practices for the multi-university Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc). Within this role, Megan led and contributed to projects in safety and security, property rights, and community organization and governance. Megan is now a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University, where she leads a program focused on risk governance in biotechnology and other emerging technologies. She has held positions as the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at CISAC, a research scientist at the University of California Berkeley, and a postdoctoral scholar in Bioengineering at Stanford University. Megan advises organizations in industry, academia and government on their approach to issues in biotechnology policy, including leading safety and responsible innovation programs with the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. She holds a PhD in biological engineering from MIT and a BScE in engineering chemistry from Queen’s University, Canada.
Rachel is an innovation facilitator with expertise convening systems of stakeholders around complex challenges. She has spent her career supporting the development and growth of organizations looking to change the world, most recently leading the network-centered LAUNCH Food program, and supporting the Synthetic Biology Leadership Accelerator Program (LEAP). Her work has spanned water, health, energy, waste, closed-loop manufacturing and food. Previously, Rachel served as Vice Consul for the British Government, building connections between biotechnology companies, researchers, funders, regulators, and government agencies in the US and UK. She started her career as a research analyst in the social enterprise space. Rachel received her BS in Psychology from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.
Jeff is a partner at SecondMuse, a company exploring network-centered approaches to accelerating high impact innovation. Jeff has been a leader in sustainable business and innovation for the last twenty years. He has worked as an impact investor and grant maker in Latin America with the Avina Foundation and Grupo Nueva, with Fortune 500s at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development exploring base of the pyramid business models, with government agencies including USAID and US Department of State on global partnership strategies, and with NASA’s leadership team on its grand challenges and innovation strategy. Jeff has pioneered strategies for network-centered innovation through platforms such as LAUNCH, Conservation X Labs and LEAP. He was a founding partner of Origo, an online social capital marketplace, and also supported the creation of the Institute of Global Health and Development in partnership with UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley. Jeff is an active board member of bio-materials company Checkerspot, as well as TechSoup Global, Conservation X Labs, and ADOPT International.
Jeremy’s expertise is in designing and managing open innovation programs and convening complex systems to identify and implement solutions to hard challenges. Jeremy’s portfolio spans both private and public clients, including managing accelerators for Nike, USAID, the US Department of State, NASA, IKEA and Australia’s DFAT through LAUNCH.org; launching the inaugural Solar Decathlon program in China with Applied Materials; developing early education markets in the US with the Kellogg and Packard Foundations; and working with PEMEX to reduce emissions from flaring and venting. Jeremy also sits on the board of Included.org, an international nonprofit that builds more inclusive communities for migrants in urban slums globally through community centers, education and advocacy
Vrunda Rathod has years of innovation and health policy experience. With LEAP, Vrunda helped design and implement the second iteration of the fellowship program. Previously, Vrunda worked for US Congresswoman Diane Watson as a legislative aide focusing on both national and global health care, foreign affairs and environmental policy. She led the Congresswoman’s global health policy on issues including IP, foreign aid, and programmatic developments. When the Congresswoman retired, she decided to move back to California and spent time consulting for Kaiser Permanente until an exciting opportunity in Liberia came along. She worked with the Clinton Health Access Initiative to research maternal and newborn deaths in the country. Her research helped the country win a multi-million-dollar grant focused on improving maternal care in the country. She is currently working to bring a low-cost treatment for postpartum hemorrhage to low-income countries. Vrunda holds an undergraduate degree from USC in biomedical engineering and a graduate degree in biomedical science policy from Georgetown University.
UK Partnership Director
James Brown is a principal scientist with Cambridge Consultants where he works with clients to understand the business opportunities and applications for synthetic biology and realistic routes to market. James previously served as Director of the UK’s Synthetic Biology Special interest Group (SIG). The SIG helps catalyze the establishment of a synthetic biology industry in the UK through knowledge and technology transfer, and as Secretariat to UK’s Synthetic Biology Leadership Council, supports the implementation of the UK’s Strategic Roadmap. James previously worked in Microsoft Research’s Biological Computation Group. He was an iGEM Ambassador during the formative years of the competition, and was an advisor to the University of Cambridge iGEM team from 2007 through 2010, including when the team won the Grand Prize in 2009. He helped to organize Bio SysBio conference series and led the 2012 Cambridge BioDesign Forum. James hold a PhD in synthetic biology and self-organizing systems from the University of Cambridge, where he developed tools for the design and characterization of a new generation of genetic circuits. He also hold an MA and MEng from the University of Cambridge.
Advisors and Assistants
LEAP receives special guidance and assistance from a team of exceptional individuals.
Website Design and Production
Facilitator and Host
Alumni Program Advisor, Photographer
Program Advisor, Journalist in Residence
Leadership Workshop Facilitator
Workshop Facilitator, Rapporteur