Tag: synthetic biology

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Biopolitical News of 2016

The biggest surprise of the year was probably the birth, in Mexico, of a baby who was conceived following controversial mitochondrial manipulation (“3-parent IVF”). The location was chosen by a New York-based fertility doctor who noted that in Mexico “there are no rules.” Since 3-person IVF is technically a form of inheritable genetic modification, one big question is whether its increasing use and normalization will open the door to wider acceptance of gene editing for human reproduction.

The gene editing shockwaves of 2015 – when Crispr was first applied in human embryos, and controversy about the prospect of using it for human reproduction became explicit – developed into a somewhat more predictable flood of activity and comment in 2016. The big, and unfortunate, news here is perhaps the non-news: the absence of any significant efforts to encourage public participation in deliberations about whether powerful new genetic manipulation tools should be used in efforts to control the traits of future children and generations.

The most consequential news of the year for biopolitics as for so much else may well turn out to be the US presidential election result, but the consequences themselves remain somewhat unclear. Trump’s comments about having “the right genes” are ominous warning signs, which are perhaps getting worse, as partly described below.

Cross-border commercial surrogacy was in the news this year because of scandals, disputes, and changes in the laws of several nations where it had taken hold. Commercial pressures were particularly apparent in the slick marketing being used to promote egg freezing among young women with no fertility problems.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Looking Back at the Bioethics Commission’s Blog

Throughout its tenure, the Bioethics Commission has maintained an active digital presence to connect with a global audience. A major component of this has been through its blog. This final blog post reflects on the role the blog has played in disseminating the Bioethics Commission’s work.

Former Bioethics Commission Executive Director Valerie Bonham launched the commission’s blog on November 15, 2010, announcing that the staff would be liveblogging during Meeting Three in Atlanta. From that meeting onward, Bioethics Commission staff continued to blog live from the Bioethics Commission’s meetings, held throughout the country in cities including Washington DC, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. Meeting posts highlighted salient points of discussion as they occurred during the public meetings. For example, during Meeting Three, a blog post outlined the members’ deliberations regarding the risks and benefits of synthetic biology. During Meeting Eighteen, which focused on ethical issues in neuroscience, a blog post highlighted some of the discussion about the ethical challenges in neuroscience research. The Bioethics Commission also used blog posts to distill complex topics that arose during meetings. During Meeting Twelve, which focused on pediatric medical countermeasure research, a blog post presented a simplified structure of some of the federal regulations concerning pediatric research.

The commission’s blog also highlighted and explained the impact of the commission’s work. For example, during the commission’s tenure, a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the Common Rule—the regulations that govern the ethical conduct of federally supported human subjects research—was published in the Federal Register on September 8, 2015.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Residency Opportunity: Brocher Foundation

Residency Opportunity: Brocher Foundation

November 29, 2016

The Brocher Foundation is located on the shores of the Geneva Lake, in Hermance (Geneva – Switzerland). The Brocher Foundation residencies last between one and four months. They give researchers the opportunity to work at the Brocher Centre on projects on the ethical, legal and social implications for humankind of recent medical research and new technologies. Every month a dozen of visiting researchers live and concentrate on their research project at the Foundation.

WHY APPLY?

  • Write a book, articles, an essay, a monograph or your PhD thesis in a peaceful environment
  • Have the opportunity to meet other researchers from different disciplines and countries
  • Have the opportunity to meet experts from numerous International Organizations & Non- Governmental Organizations based in Geneva (WHO, WTO, WIPO, UNHCR, ILO, WMA, ICRC, … )

The Brocher Foundation offers to successful applicants an accommodation in the domain of the Brocher Foundation and work space with all facilities.
Developing a research project involving cooperation with a Swiss university, a European university, a governmental or non- governmental will be considered as an asset.

A researcher can apply with other researchers to work on a collaborative project.

Topics of the Year 2018:

Among the following disciplines: Bioethics, Medical Anthropology, Health Economics, Health Policy, Health Law, Philosophy of Medicine and Health, Medical Humanities, Social Science Perspectives on Health, Medical Ethics, History of medicine.

Proposals of the following topics are notably welcomed: Equitable access to medical care, Biobanks, Biosecurity and Dual Use Dilemmas, Clinical Trials and Research on Human Subjects, Genetic testing and screening, Health Care Reform, Nanotechnology, Neglected diseases, Pandemic planning, Reproductive technology, Stem Cells and Cell Therapy, Organ transplantation, Cyber Health, Neurosciences, Synthetic Biology.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Jordan Paradise on ‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry and Frank Pasquale Subscribe to TWIHL here! Loyola Chicago law professor Jordan Paradise joins us to discuss some of her recent work in life sciences law. Jordan’s recent interests span nanotechnology, synthetic biology, precision medicine, gene editing, and electronic cigarettes.  Her publications have appeared … Continue reading

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Ethically Sound podcast: Full series now available

Since the Bioethics Commission was established by Executive Order by President Obama, the Bioethics Commission has released 10 reports on a variety of ethically challenging topics, and has provided recommendations on topics ranging from synthetic biology and neuroscience to whole genome sequencing and public health preparedness. Over the last 10 weeks, the Bioethics Commission has released its 10-episode podcast series Ethically Sound, based on the work produced by the Bioethics Commission. Each episode in the series focuses on a particularly salient ethical challenge that was addressed by the Bioethics Commission, and illustrates how these ethical challenges impact our society. All 10 episodes of Ethically Sound are now available on our website.

Each of the 10 podcasts opens with an introductory vignette from a speaker closely associated with the topic, who recounts a personal or professional experience related to the ethical issues addressed in the particular report. Each episode also features an interview with a member of the Bioethics Commission, who describes how the Commission addressed the topic. Ethically Sound is hosted and narrated by the Commission’s former Communications Director Hillary Wicai Viers.

The Bioethics Commission has also released a new educational resource related to the podcasts, “Ethically Sound Discussion Guide: Podcast Series Discussion Questions.” This discussion guide is designed to facilitate classroom or seminar discussion.  The discussion guide, and all of the Bioethics Commission’s educational materials, can be downloaded for free and adapted for all levels of learners.

This podcast series is the Bioethics Commission’s most recent project aimed at bringing the Commission’s work to a variety of audiences.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Ethically Sound Episode 9: Every Generation

The ninth episode of the Bioethics Commission’s podcast series, Ethically Sound, is now available. This 10-episode series brings the diverse body of the Commission’s work to a broad audience. Today’s episode, “Bioethics for Every Generation,” focuses on the Commission’s legacy report Bioethics for Every Generation: Deliberation and Education in Health, Science, and Technology, which outlines how democratic deliberation and ethics education can be used to address challenging ethical issues in health, science, and technology.

The Bioethics Commission has addressed the importance of democratic deliberation and ethics education in previous reports. In its first report, New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies, democratic deliberation—a method of collaborative decision making that calls for mutual respect and reason-giving—is one of the five ethical tenets used to assess emerging technologies. In multiple reports, the Bioethics Commission has recommended incorporating ethics education into all stages of training for scientists and health care providers. The report Bioethics for Every Generation describes democratic deliberation and ethics education as mutually reinforcing processes that can help foster a more civic-minded society.

The podcast opens with a narrative from Dr. Lisa M. Lee, Executive Director of the Bioethics Commission. Dr. Lee recounts a challenging experience early in her public health career where she was asked to justify a particular policy. Regarding the importance of ethics in health and science, Dr. Lee said “Science and technology provide us with great tools for improving our experience as human beings, and it is up to us to consider how we ought to use these tools.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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A New Edition of Nature Biotechnology Is Now Available

November 2, 2016

Nature Biotechnology (vol. 34, no. 10, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Synthetic biology firms pivot from biofuels to cheap biologics” by Cormac Sheridan

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Ethically Sound Episode 8: Ethically Impossible

Ethically Impossible,” the eighth episode of the Bioethics Commission’s podcast series Ethically Sound, is now available. Ethically Sound is based on the 10 reports that the Bioethics Commission has produced during its tenure. The Bioethics Commission, established in 2009 by Executive Order, has addressed a wide variety of ethical challenges ranging from synthetic biology to neuroscience. This episode is based on the Bioethics Commission’s second report Ethically Impossible: STD Research in Guatemala from 1946-1948.

In what is now recognized as an infamous episode in the history of research ethics, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted unethical sexually transmitted disease (STD) experiments in Guatemala from 1946 through 1948. The Guatemala STD experiments were carried out with ongoing oversight by PHS and with the approval and engagement of Guatemalan government officials. The research involved intentionally exposing and infecting several vulnerable Guatemalan research subject populations—prisoners, soldiers, and psychiatric patients—to disease, without their consent. When these studies were revealed in 2010, President Barack Obama extended an apology to the President and people of Guatemala. President Obama charged the Bioethics Commission to conduct an ethical analysis of the research that took place, and to review current federal regulations to protect research participants. The Bioethics Commission conducted a thorough fact-finding investigation, reviewed more than 125,000 pages of documentation related to these studies, and traveled to Guatemala to meet with Guatemala’s own investigation committee. The Bioethics Commission’s report presents an unvarnished ethical analysis of the research studies that occurred, and concludes that these studies involved “unconscionable basic violations of ethics.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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7 Highlights from Nuffield Council

The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ recently released report, Genome Editing: an ethical review  (full version available here) is the most substantial and thorough assessment of its kind. It delves deeply into the ethical, social, and political underpinnings and implications of genome editing, and touches on related, converging technologies including synthetic biology, gene drives, and de-extinction. A second report with ethical guidance regarding the use of genome editing for human reproduction is due in early 2017 from a Council working group chaired by Karen Yeung

This first report will be an important reference for people across disciplines for some time, and I will not do justice to its scope and breadth here. However, I want to draw attention to just seven concepts that are particularly helpful and illuminating, as much for their framing of the questions at stake as for their content. I briefly summarize each point, and select key quotes from the report.

1. On emerging technology and innovation

Contrary to frequent assumptions, innovation in science and technology is neither linear, autonomous, nor pre-destined. It is continuously co-produced in relation to a complex intersection of actors, institutions, market-drivers, and serendipity. Momentum and sunk costs can however encourage adherence to certain technological pathways, meaning the choice of paths we take should not be undertaken blindly, or lightly.

“A commonplace but now largely discredited perspective viewed science as a resource from which innovators draw, leading to new technological innovations that provide social or commercial benefits, such as increased wellbeing and productivity. The flaws in this ‘linear model’ are generally thought to stem from its failure to give due attention to the complexity of innovation processes, the importance of feedbacks, the role of markets and other actors, and the effects of uncertainty and serendipity.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Ethically Sound Episode 6: New Directions

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has
released the sixth episode, “New Directions“, in its new
podcast series Ethically Sound.  This podcast series is dedicated to bringing the Bioethics Commission’s body of work to a broad audience. The Bioethics Commission, established in 2009 by President Bara
ck Obama, has produced 10 reports, each of which focuses on key ethical considerations surrounding a particular topic. Today’s episode is based on the Bioethics Commission’s first report, New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies.

New Directions was written in response to a charge from President Obama, after the announcement that researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute had created the world’s first self-replicating synthetic genome in a bacterial cell. This news resulted in intense media coverage and hyped claims about the implications of this research. President Obama asked the Bioethics Commission to review the developing field of synthetic biology and to identify appropriate ethical boundaries that would both maximize public benefits and minimize risks. The Bioethics Commission considered a diverse range of perspectives on the direction and implications of synthetic biology throughout its public deliberations. Taking into consideration both the tremendous promise and the potential risks that could arise from developments in synthetic biology, the commission put forth 18 recommendations that outline important ethical considerations for synthetic biology. The recommendations include a call for increased federal oversight of research in synthetic biology, and a recommendation for incorporating ethics training for researchers in fields such as engineering and materials science, who might become involved in synthetic biology research.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.