Event Detail

Editing Genomes with CRISPR: Between Scientific Breakthroughs and Societal Challenges

Interdisciplinary Symposium

Oct 19 to Oct 20, 2017

Billrothhaus Vienna
Organized by: Prof. Christa Schleper, Dr. Melina Kerou, Isabelle Zink (University of Vienna)

Topic Description

An extremely important scientific revolution is taking place with the discovery and development of a gene-editing technology termed CRISPR-Cas9. With this tool, the genomes of various organisms can now be edited with unprecedented specificity and simplicity of use. This opens many possibilities for basic research. It also enables the development of numerous applications in biomedicine, agriculture, in addition to offering novel ways of tackling environmental challenges. The potential implications for the further evolution of species, including our own, as well as for our relationship to nature are profound. Thus, the ongoing scientific revolution opens up questions of safety and ethical responsibility, invokes issues of ownership and social justice, and raises the question of how we can collectively steer research practices towards desirable futures. We believe that decisions on when, where and for what purpose this technology will be applied are also political, not least in terms of their consequences. Thus, directing this discovery towards responsible applications and desirable futures, cannot be left to the sole responsibility of scientists, experts and the industry.

This workshop aims to discuss the potential impact and challenges while exploring the scientific, ethical, and societal issues inherent in genome-editing research. Inputs by key-note speakers, the presentation of three scenarios where the application of CRISPR is envisioned, interdisciplinary panels, as well as formats encouraging the interaction of the audience with speakers will promote engagement through dialogue.

Specifically, we would like to:

• host an open dialogue between the scientific community (ranging from life scientists, to social scientists, and beyond) and civil society, discussing ongoing applications of the CRISPR technology, expected and envisioned developments, and the benefits, caveats and consequences of this technology’s applications;

• provide a platform for public engagement on this topic, enabling researchers involved in the CRISPR field to interact with citizens, regulators, and stakeholders;

• raise these issues in a European context, in order to facilitate the development of a European engagement with this revolution.

We invite scientists and researchers from the social sciences and humanities, regulators and stakeholders, as well as interest groups and citizens to join the conversation about this ongoing scientific revolution, engaging with us in an open dialogue towards common desirable futures and explore the means and instruments that help to achieve them.

Confirmed Speakers

Krzysztof Chylinski (Vienna BioCenter)

Jim Dratwa (European Commission, Head of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies)

Sheila Jasanoff (Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School)

Stuart Newman (Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College)

Shobita Parthasarathy (Associate Professor of Public Policy and Women's Studies, and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, University of Michigan)

Barbara Prainsack (Professor of Sociology at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College, London)

Giuseppe Testa (Head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics, European Institute for Oncology, Milan)

Andrew Webster (Professor and Director of the Science and Technology Studies Unit, University of York)