Designer Babies and CRISPR-Bananas
What if we could eliminate malaria by ‘rewriting’ the DNA of mosquitos? Or design a super tasty banana that is immune to viruses, or even better; delete hereditary diseases in humans by simply cutting out the responsible genes? New techniques that can make adjustments in the blueprint of life, DNA, are rapidly evolving. Genome editing is widely researched to enhance crops, to prevent epidemics, but also to design. Some of these things are already happening due to the rapid evolution of genome editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas. But aren’t we moving too fast? Can we oversee the consequences of genetic technology intervening in nature? Ethicist Jeantine Lunshof and molecular geneticist Jan Kok will discuss the whereabouts of genome editing and elaborate on the ethical dilemmas.
Jeantine Lunshof is philosopher-ethicist in the Sculpting Evolution group at MIT that explores evolutionary and ecological engineering and invents new ways to restore and improve our shared ecosystems. Lunshof holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Hamburg (Germany), an MA in Philosophy, with minor in Health Law, from the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), and a PhD from VU University Amsterdam.Prior work has been pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine. For the Personal Genome Project (Director George Church, Harvard Medical School), Lunshof developed the innovative model of Open Consent. As an Assistant Professor at the University Medical Center Groningen (Netherlands) she has been investigating the normative questions raised by the use of genetic imputation within a population isolate.
Jan Kok is a Professor in Molecular Genetics at the University of Groningen. The expertise of Kok is in molecular genetics and genomics and in microbiology. Kok has been closely involved with the iGEM team of Groningen as the coordinator and one of the supervisor for a few of years now in this worldwide student competition to design “genetically engineered machines” (in fact, engineered bacteria or yeast). Next to this, Kok is the adjunct director of the Master Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, a former member of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, a member of the Board of the Groningen Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Institute, and finally a member of the Board of the Undergraduate School of Science and Engineering.