Special Location: Rm 1100 Grainger Hall for Ethics of Human Genome Editing

For November 13, 2019               
Note our Special Location:  
Grainger Hall, Room 1100,975 University Avenue
Part of the “UW Philosophers at Work” public series
We will return to Genetics Biotech Center next week, Nov 20.
Hi WN@TL Fans,
A while back, there in the Garden of Eden, humanity was tempted by the fruit of two trees:  The Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, and the Tree of Life. We’ve been stringing our tightrope between the two arbors ever since.  
Closer to home, and in our lifetime, we had headlines in the Sixties about heart transplants. This gave some of us the willies as we faced the paradox of life carved out from death. 
In the Seventies we had the bombshells of gene splicing, which surely was amazing, and of the test tube baby, which surely was an abomination.  Yet by the end of the Eighties, genetic engineering still burned as a controversy even as human in vitro fertilization had started shifting from sacrilege to sacrament.
In the Nineties we wrangled with the cloning of mammals:  in the first instance, by cutting early-stage embryos into two to get twins, and then—far more astonishing— by transferring the nucleus of a single somatic cell into a nucleus-free egg cell. Dolly Technology delivered a deathblow to a dogma dear to animal cell biologists. The lamb also breathed life into new reaches of bioethics.
Then in 1998 came human embryonic stem cells. The specter and aspiration of engineering humans to cure diseases, or to enhance performance, became both technically plausible and philosophically pressing.
By 2001 we had the human genome sequence in hand, and by 2007 we had human induced pluripotent stem cells in vitro.
In the Teens along came Crispr gene editing.  Fast, cheap, and precise compared to other genetic tools, with Crispr the days of reckoning were drawing nigh.
Last year came the announcement from China of human babies born from Crispr-edited cells, and now we have case studies rather than only scenarios to put in the balance.
This week (November 13) (in Grainger Hall, not at BiotechRobert Streiffer, professor of Medical History & Bioethics as well as of Philosophy, will share his insights and analyses into the ethical landscape of human genome editing.  
He’ll be comparing differences between edits to somatic cells versus germline cells, and between edits intended to treat a disease or disorder versus to enhance a trait.  He’ll delve into the particulars of the announcement from China in 2018 of the birth of the first human babies with edited genes.
About the Speaker
Robert Streiffer is Professor of Medical History & Bioethics in the School of Medicine & Public Health, and Professor of Philosophy in the College of Letters & Science.
Professor Streiffer’s research encompasses bioethics (both medical and agricultural), ethical theory, and political philosophy, with a focus on ethical and policy issues arising from modern biotechnology. 
Recent publications include “An Expanded Understanding of the Ethical Importance of Civic Engagement in Food Sourcing Decisions at the Institutional Level,” Public Philosophy Journal, (2018), ”The Confinement of Animals Used in Laboratory Research: Conceptual and Ethical Issues,” in The Ethics of Captivity, ed. Lori Gruen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014),”Ethical Issues in the Application of Biotechnology to Animals in Agriculture,” with John Basl, in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics (2011), and “Chimeras, Moral Status, and Public Policy: Implications of the Abortion Debate for Public Policy on Human/Nonhuman Chimera Research,” The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics (2010).
Next week (November 20WN@TL returns to our home field at the Genetics Biotech Center as Daniel Ludois of Electrical & Computer Engineering reports on his research into new types of electric machines—motors and generators.  
He will touch on three subjects: 1) The physical operating principles of machines and how magnetic forces evolved from Faraday’s cup to the industrialized world, 2) How modern applications such as wind turbines and mobile robotics pose serious challenges to magnetic machine technology, and 3) How his research group is leveraging electrostatic forces (rather than magnetic) to meet these modern application challenges.
I’m preparing to be astonished.
Hope to see you this week at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension