Track Lead:  Prof. Kenneth R Foster

10th Nov 2022

10:30PM-12:00 Midnight [HKT] / 2:30PM - 4PM [UTC]Session: #1:DARPA’s ADAPTER Program: Applying the ELSI Approach to Humancentric Implantables

11th Nov 2022

10:30PM-12:00 Midnight [HKT] / 2:30PM - 4PM [UTC]Session: #2: Keynote Speakers:
K S Parthasarathy
Thais Russomano

12th Nov 2022

10:30PM-11:30PM [HKT] / 2:30PM - 3:30PM [UTC]Session: #3: Keynote Speaker: Kenneth R, Foster

Paper Presentations

Session: #1: DARPA’s ADAPTER Program: Applying the ELSI Approach to Humancentric Implantables

The ADvanced Acclimation and Protection Tool for Environmental Readiness (ADAPTER) program is located within the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office (DARPA/BTO). ADAPTER aims to develop a travel adapter for the human body, an implantable or ingestible bioelectronic carrier that contains cellular factories and compounds (therapies) to be released upon secure external activation. Imagine a soldier on deployment having the command and control to trigger a release of therapies to prevent particular conditions in their own body. The system is designed to either entrain the sleep cycle, halving the time to reestablish normal sleep after a disruption (e.g., jet lag), or to eliminate the top 5 bacterial sources of traveler’s diarrhea. Consider it a remote control capability to wellness and recovery. ADAPTER is a way to physically interface with the human body, a type of wireless “living pharmacy”, via an implantable device that attempts to control the body’s circadian clock, aiding to regulate cycles by providing accurate diagnostics and response mechanisms. This session is dedicated to exploring the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications/Aspects (ELSI/ELSA) of ADAPTER. The panel is made up of transdisciplinary scholars with differing strengths in ethics, law and social implications of advanced biomedical implantable devices. Using a normative approach, the panel will ask the main question: “Is it desirable for warfighters in the US Armed Forces to bear an implantable device for the goal of better sleep cycles and less prevalence of traveler’s diarrhea?”

The DARPA Mission and Perspective and the Role of ELSI

Since its inception, DARPA has had a singular mission: to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. Working with innovators inside and outside of Government, DARPA has repeatedly transformed revolutionary concepts into practical capabilities, pushing critical frontiers ahead of the Nation’s adversaries. DARPA’s leadership and team members understand that this pursuit of cutting edge technologies will at times raise ethical, legal, security, or policy questions that cannot and should not go unanswered. Therefore, DARPA is committed to addressing the broader societal questions raised by its work and engaging those in relevant communities of expertise to provide context and perspective for consideration. DARPA works rigorously within the law and regulations and with appropriate organizations where legal and policy frameworks already exist. In new and uncharted territory, the Agency engages a variety of experts and stakeholders with varying points of view—both to hear what they and their professional communities of practice have to say and to help convey to those communities DARPA’s insights about what technology can and cannot do.

Relevance to Bioengineering Track:

This panel addresses the technological trajectory of next generation technologies, especially focused on embedded devices (in vivo) for the treatment of two non-critical health conditions: jet lag and traveler’s diarrhea. Using an ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) framework the panel will address an open discussion into future systems of care and how they may me desirable (or not), permissible (or not), to the broader community, beyond the military.

Raising Public Awareness about the Technological Potentials:

This panel introduces the potential for a ‘living pharmacy’ to be embedded in the human body to aid warfighters. Semi-autonomous to fully autonomous drug delivery has long been touted as a way for patients to better manage their health conditions ensuring better and more improved outcomes, as therapies are released predictably as required. The biomedical domain has seen a spate of innovations in the last two decades of fully implantable solutions, related to the heart and brain to better regulate a patient’s health. We are now considering uberveillant devices for preventative care based on real-time diagnostics, rather than care based on prosthesis. This is more about strengthening a warfighter, than recovering a lost function. But are there alternatives? Could less technical solutions aid in supporting warfighters for the two scenarios posed- jet lag and traveler’s diarrhea? It is incredibly important to reach the public with this panel for the main reason that military-industrial relationships are well known. The potential for a spin-off commercial venture from the ADAPTER Program are real, even if not a single warfighter ever receives an ADAPTER implantable. ELSI discussions are paramount at the nascent stages of any new biotechnological innovation. The importance of raising public awareness about potential socio-technical imaginaries is also important as it is a form of education.

Keywords: biomedical engineering, ethics, global and public health, nanotechnology, pharmacology and toxicology, science and technology studies, and science and values


Katina MichaelKatina Michael

Title: Socio-technical Design for Complex Systems

Talk Description: Professor Michael will discuss the socio-technical design process for complex systems like implantable or ingestible technologies, drawing upon concepts in ELSA and socio-technical systems.

Bio: Dr. Michael is a Professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence at Arizona State University. She researches the socio-ethical implications of emerging technologies, including implantable devices.


Sara GerkeSara Gerke

Title: Legal and Ethical Issues of MedTech in the Military

Talk Description: Professor Gerke will discuss privacy laws in the U.S. and Europe that are relevant when developing cutting-edge new medical technologies for the military. She will also explore ethical issues raised by such technologies and solutions on how to protect the privacy of individuals adequately.

Bio: Ms. Gerke is an Assistant Professor of Law at Penn State Dickinson Law. She researches ethical and legal challenges of artificial intelligence and digital health topics, including ingestible electronic sensors.


Maxwell MehlmanMaxwell Mehlman

Title: Risks and benefits of ADAPTER

Talk Description: This presentation will address the benefits, risks and harms of the ADAPTER Program. It will address prevention versus enhancement of military personnel and suggest an ethical framework for deployment.

Bio: Mr. Mehlman is Professor of Law and Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University Schools of Law and Medicine. He is interested in the bioethics of military medicine and military performance enhancement.



Matthew WyniaMatthew Wynia

Title: Ethical and Practical Challenges in Working on Military Medical Research

Talk Description: Dr. Wynia will explore some ethical and practical challenges in working on military medical research that could be construed as ‘dual use’ (i.e., research that might enhance both defensive and offensive capabilities), including how to communicate about such research with the public and our allies and adversaries.

Bio: Dr. Wynia is an internal medicine and infectious diseases physician and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado. He is interested in how clinicians manage ethical issues and uncertainty in emerging and innovative biomedical technologies.


Session #2:

Keynote Speaker: K S Parthasarathy, Former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, India


The issues associated with public perception are almost the same for all technologies. Addressing them promptly, enthusiastically and proactively is very crucial for public acceptance of the technology. One reason for potential failures in carrying the public with technological advances is the fact that scientists and technologists ignored this important area for various reasons leaving the public to gather information from all other sources. The most important factor is that the communicators should earn the trust of the public by being totally transparent; they should provide accurate information promptly in jargon-free language. They should identify clearly the issues to be addressed appreciating the genuine concerns of the public. The approach to different stake-holders is necessarily different. My talk shall cover some of these factors.


KS ParthasarathyK S Parthasarathy was the secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) from 1987 to 2004. Prior to joining AERB he worked in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in various capacities since 2004. He secured his Ph D from the University of Leeds, UK. He had advanced training in medical physics. He specialized in Environmental Radioactivity and high sensitive counting while he was a Colombo Study Fellow at the UK Medical Research Council’s Erstwhile Environmental Research Unit, Department of Medical Physics UK. He was a Research Associate in the University of Virginia Medical centre, Charlottesville in 198i-82.




Keynote Speaker: Thais Russomano
Title: Human Space Exploration – Challenges and Achievements

Thais Russomano is a Brazilian doctor and scientific researcher specialising in space medicine, space physiology, biomedical engineering, telemedicine and telehealth. She founded the Microgravity Centre (MicroG) at PUCRS university, Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1999, coordinating it for 18 years until 2017. The MicroG is the first educational and research centre in Space Life Sciences in Latin America. She is a senior lecturer at King’s College London, lecturing in Aviation and Space related courses; coordinator of the Space Network (Rede Espaço), University of Lisbon; guest lecturer at Aalto University, Finland in Space and Design; guest lecturer at Pfarrkirchen Institute of Technology, European Campus, contributing to the MSc in Medical Informatics; consultant for the Skolkovo Foundation; member of the Mars One Advisory Board; International Relations Director for the UK-based HuSCO, Human Spaceflight Capitalization Office; and director of two private companies linked to space life sciences and telehealth – InnovaSpace Consultancy (UK) and International Space Medicine Consortium (USA).



Session #3:
Keynote:  What Do We Know About the Havana Syndrome?

Speaker: Kenneth R. Foster


In late 2016. U.S. Embassy personnel in Havana, Cuba, began to report the development of unusual symptoms and clinical signs. For some of these patients, the case began with the sudden onset of a loud noise, perceived to have directional features, and accompanied by pain in one or both ears or across a broad region of the head, and in some cases. a sensation of head pressure or vibration. dizziness followed in some cases by tinnitus, visual problems, vertigo, and cognitive difficulties. Since then, several hundred other individuals have come forward with similar health complaints. Despite intensive investigation, the cause of the “anomalous health incidents” remains unexplained. This talk will review the current state of the issue, and the two dominant theories for the cause of the symptoms (an attack using directed microwave energy, and psychogenic effects).

Foster KR and Chou C-K. Did Microwaves Harm US Employees at Its Embassy in Havana? Science Based Medicine March 26, 2021 (
Foster KR, Garrett DC, Ziskin MC. Can the Microwave Auditory Effect Be “Weaponized”? Frontiers in Public Health. 2021;9.

Dr. Kenneth R. Foster (Life Fellow IEEE) received the Ph.D. degree in physics from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA, in 1971. He was with the U.S. Navy, Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA, from 1971 to 1976. Since 1976, he has been with the Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, where he is currently Professor Emeritus. He has been involved in studies on the interaction of nonionizing radiation and biological systems, including mechanisms of interaction and biomedical applications of radio frequency and microwave energy. In addition, he has written widely about scientific issues related to possible health effects of electromagnetic fields. He has authored approximately 170 technical papers in peer-reviewed journals, numerous other articles, and two books related to technological risk and the law. In 2016 he received the d’Arsonval Award from the Bioelectromagnetics Society for contributions to the field of bioelectromagnetics. He is a longtime member of TC 95 of the IEEE International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (which sets safety limits for radiofrequency energy) and a member of the Physical Agents Committee of the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists, among many other professional activities. He is Life Fellow of the IEEE, and fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Electromagnetics Academy.

Paper Presentations
  • Pablo C. Herrera and Macarena Valenzuela-Zubiaur,The impact of the democratization of technologies in vulnerable groups, artisans and micro-entrepreneurs. The role of Mobile Fab Labs
  • Katina Michael, Just-in-Time Transnational Organized Crime: Just Another Adaptive Supply Chain