Genetic engineering and genomics announced as topic for 2020 Boe Forum

“Are We Ready? The Science, Ethics, and Geopolitics of Genetic Engineering and Preventive Genomics” has been announced as the topic for the 24th annual Boe Forum on Public Affairs, with Robert C. Green and Jamie Metzl as keynote speakers. 

The forum will focus on the relationship between genetics and health, the ability to prevent disease and the geopolitics of genetic engineering, according to a statement by Augustana University and the Center for Western Studies. 

The study of genetics first began when Gregor Mendel studied how traits passed down through generations by cross-pollinating pea plants in the 1800s, but the field has largely developed to include innovations such as the Human Genome Project, CRISPR technology and whole exome sequencing.

“The genetic revolution is changing our world,” Harry Thomspon, executive director of the Center for Western Studies said. “Not only in ways with which we are becoming familiar, such as the role of genomic medicine in fertility and reproductive health, but also in ways we are just beginning to comprehend, such as national security preparedness.”

Green is a physician-scientist and professor of genetic medicine at Harvard Medical School and directs the Genomes2People Research Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Broad Institute.

Green is most well-known for leading the first experimental trials to examine genetic risk for common complex disease and was the first to evaluate outcomes in direct-to-consumer genetic testing services. He also established the first comprehensive preventive genomics clinic in Boston for families.

The second speaker, Metzl, is a futurist and author of the 2019 book “Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity.”

Metzl is a regular contributor to CNN, Bloomberg, BBC, CBS and has written science columns for the New York Times, Washington Post, TechCrunch and Foreign Affairs. Metzl is currently a senior fellow for technology and national security with the Atlantic Council, a faculty member for Singularity University’s exponential medicine track. He was also appointed in February to the World Health Organization expert advisory committee on developing global standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing.

“Advanced scientific technologies are and will continue to be intertwined with a humanistic perspective—exploring the medical, ethical and social issues related to such advancements is important because of the potential implications for healthcare, aging, families and society,” university President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said.

Green and Metzl will speak at 7:30 p.m. on March 23 in the Elmen Center. Tickets are not yet available.

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