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Genome Editing: Promise and Perils

Event Details:

  • Date: - -
  • Venue: Collegio A Volta, 17 via A Ferrata, Pavia
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On the 13th of March at 6.00 pm at Collegio Volta John Parrington, of the University of Oxford, will give the first seminar of a new series on Genome Editing. Genome Editing is  a teaching seminar inititiative of the Harvey Medical Course and is organised jointly by Collegio Volta, the Department of Molecular Medicine and the Fondazione Adriano Buzzati Traverso.  The title of J Parrington’s seminar: Genome Editing: its Promise for Society and Some Perils encapsulates well the need to discuss these major scientific advances and the need for debate within society. The poster of the seminar can be downloaded here.

Since the birth of civilisation, human beings have manipulated other life-forms. The ability to directly engineer the genomes of organisms first became possible in the 1970s, when the gene for human insulin was introduced into bacteria to produce this protein for diabetics. At the same time, mice were modified to produce human growth hormone, and grew huge as a result. But these were only our first tottering steps into the possibilities of genetic engineering. In the past few years, the pace of progress has accelerated enormously. We can now cut and paste genes using molecular scissors with astonishing ease, and the new technology of genome editing can be applied to practically any species of plants or animals. These new technologies hold much promise for improving lives. Genome editing may soon be used to treat rare genetic disorders, but also diseases like AIDS, by genetically modifying patients’ white blood cells to be resistant to HIV. In agriculture, genome editing could be used to engineer species with increased food output, and the ability to thrive in challenging climates. But these powerful new techniques also raise important ethical dilemmas and potential dangers, pressing issues that are already upon us given the speed of scientific developments. To what extent should parents be able to manipulate the genetics of their offspring – and would designer babies be limited to the rich? Can we effectively weigh up the risks from introducing synthetic lifeforms into complex ecosystems? John Parrington explains the nature and possibilities of these new scientific developments, which could usher in a brave, new world. We must rapidly come to understand its implications if we are to direct its huge potential to the good of humanity and the planet.

Biographical Sketch.
John Parrington is an Associate Professor in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at the University of Oxford, and a Tutorial Fellow in Medicine at Worcester College, Oxford. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles in science journals including Nature, Current Biology, Journal of Cell Biology, Journal of Clinical Investigation, The EMBO Journal, Development, Developmental Biology, and Human Reproduction. He has extensive experience writing popular science, having published articles in The Guardian, New Scientist, Chemistry World, and The Biologist. He has also written science reports for the Wellcome Trust, British Council, and Royal Society. He is the author of The Deeper Genome, (OUP, 2015) and Redesigning Life (OUP, 2016).

Selected publications
[1]  The Deeper Genome. Oxford University Press (2016)

[2] Redesigning Life. Oxford University Press (2016)











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