Pilar Ossorio

Professor of Law and Bioethics

Pilar  Ossorio


Room 9103, Law School

PDF Icon Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., Stanford University (Microbiology and Immunology)
J.D., University of California-Berkeley (Boalt Hall)


Dr. Ossorio is Professor of Law and Bioethics where she is on the faculties of the Law School and the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the Medical School. In 2011 she became the inaugural Ethics Scholar-in-Residence at the Morgridge Institute for Research, the private, nonprofit research institute that is part of the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery. She also serves as the co-director of UW's Law and Neuroscience Program, as a faculty member in the UW Masters in Biotechnology Studies program, and as Program Faculty in the Graduate Program in Population Health. Prior to taking her position at UW, she was Director of the Genetics Section of the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association, and taught as adjunct faculty at the University of Chicago Law School.

Dr. Ossorio received her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 1990 from Stanford University. She went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship in cell biology at Yale University School of Medicine. Throughout the 1990's Dr. Ossorio also worked as a consultant for the federal program on the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of the Human Genome Project, and in 1994 she took a full time position with the Department of Energy's ELSI program. In 1993 she served on the Ethics Working Group for President Clinton's Health Care Reform Task Force.

She received her JD from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law in 1997. While at Berkeley she was elected to the legal honor society Order of the Coif and received several awards for outstanding legal scholarship.

Throughout her career Dr. Ossorio has participated in numerous advisory committees and boards that aid governments in setting science policy. She has advised the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the FDA, Genome Canada, and Health Canada. In 2012 she was appointed to a four year term on the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Health Research Protections, a committee to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on how to improve protections for people who participate in biomedical and behavioral research. She recently completed a term on the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, and she has served on or chaired numerous committees and working groups that advise large-scale genome research initiatives, such as the 1000 Genomes Project and the Human Microbiome project. She has also served as a member of, or liaison to, several Boards and Committees for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council (both part of the National Academies of Science), including the National Cancer Policy Board, the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Advisory Committee, and the Committee on Intellectual Property Rights. She is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Since 2005, Dr. Ossorio has worked helping American Indian communities to develop research governance and oversight processes. For five years she consulted on the Havasupai tribe's research-related litigation, which settled in 2010.

Dr. Ossorio's research interests revolve around research ethics and the protection of research participants, including: governance of large bioscience projects; data sharing in scientific research; the use of race in biomedical and social science research; ethical and regulatory issues in human subjects research; and the regulation and ethics of online research. She is also quite interested in novel ethical, regulatory, and policy issues raised by research aimed at moving scientific and engineering findings from the laboratory to the product development and medical/therapeutic applications (translational research).

Selected Recent Publications

  • R. Benjamin Shapiro and Pilar N. Ossorio, Regulation of Online Social Network Research, 339 SCIENCE 144 (2013).
  • Ossorio, P.N., Taking Aims Seriously: Repository Research and Limits on the Duty to Return Individual Research Findings, 14 GENETICS IN MEDICINE 461 (2012).
  • Ossorio, P.N., Bodies of Data: Genomic Data and Bioscience Data Sharing, 78 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL RESEARCH 907 (2011).
  • Ossorio, P.N., Myth and Mystification: The Science of Race and IQ, in RACE AND THE GENETIC REVOLUTION (Sheldon Krimsky ed., Columbia University Press, 2011).

Scholarship & Publications


Law Repository


  • Pilar Ossorio joined campus and local experts for an October webinar organized by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, "Moving COVID-19 Inventions to Market: What Can We Do and What Should We Do?"

  • Pilar Ossorio participated in "Making the Cut: Promises and Challenges of Gene Editing," held at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in October 2019. Ossorio moderated a session titled "Case Studies: Genetic Engineering; Disability Rights."

  • In August, Pilar Ossorio was an invited speaker at Machine Learning for Health Care, an annual meeting that brings clinicians and medical researchers together with computer scientists who have artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data expertise. She presented "Justice in Machine Learning for Health Care." 

News & Media

Teaching Areas

  • Intellectual Property
  • Law & Medicine
  • Patent Law
  • Torts

Recently Taught Courses

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