Almost a year after his last visit in which he discussed his achievements in sequencing the human genome, University Prof. Francis Collins returns today as the keynote speaker of a symposium about advances in genetics.
Collins has been on leave from the University since becoming director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. This job puts him in charge of a government project aimed at constructing a detailed map representative of every human gene.
“We”re going to explore cutting edge and socially controversial issues in genetics,” said Prof. Richard Lempert, director of the Life Sciences, Values and Society Project and co-chair of the event. “We”re exploring these topics before they are on the horizon, so people understand the science involved and the issues they impose.”
The symposium, named in honor of distinguished alum Jerome Wiesner, will focus on the ways in which the world of biological sciences, medicine and health have changed because of a growing understanding of the human genome.
“The amount of genetic information is increasing at a faster rate then we imagined when we started planning this event a year ago,” said James Penner-Hahn, associate vice president for research and co-chair of the symposium. “We all need to be informed about the issues and think about them (because) questions are going to come up much more quickly than we”re ready.”
Collins and other professionals will also discuss in-depth the effects of genetic research on social organization and the way the public is dealing with these advances.
“We deliberately designed this not to be simply medical doctors,” Penner-Hahn said. “We want to discuss both the pro and con perspectives and different disciplinary perspectives.”
“We”re now trying to have that conversation,” he added.
Other topics of discussion include the roles of race and ethnicity in the study of the human genome and the link between genes and nature. These topics will be addressed by a panel of experts, including University philosophy Prof. Elizabeth Anderson Thomas Bouchard, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota Howard University microbiology Prof. Georgia Dunston Eric Juengst, of the Center of Biomedical Ethics at Case Western Reserve University Yale University genetics and psychiatry Prof. Kenneth Kidd University psychiatry Prof. Randolph Nesse and Gregory Stock, a member of the UCLA Program on Medicine, Technology and Society.
Following the day”s activities, guests have the opportunity to attend a formal dinner at the Michigan Union, where former University President Harold Shapiro will speak. Shapiro is now chairman of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee,
Events begin at 8:30 this morning in Hale Auditorium at the School of Business. Collins” speech will begin at 9 a.m., and events will conclude at 6 p.m.
The events will also be webcast live.