Gene Drives #429

July 07, 2017

This week on Science for the People: who is driving this genetic bus? We'll talk with Kevin Esvelt about gene drives, what they are, where they come from what they can be used for, and why the science on gene drives should be done as openly as possible. Then, we'll speak with Laurie Zoloth about the ethical questions surrounding their use, why people are so afraid, and who should be making the decision to use this technology in the wild.

This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.

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  • Kevin Esvelt
  • Laurie Zoloth

Guest Bios

Kevin Esvelt

Kevin received his PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University in 2010 for his invention of Phage-Assisted Continuous Evolution (PACE), a synthetic microbial ecosystem for rapidly evolving biomolecules, in the laboratory of David R. Liu. At the MIT Media Lab, the Sculpting Evolution group explores evolutionary and ecological engineering and responsive science. Kevin's group investigates the fundamental parameters governing molecular evolution, uncovers new ways of controlling bacterial fitness and horizontal gene transfer, develops safeguards and model systems for evaluating CRISPR gene drive elements, collaborates with groups developing gene drive interventions, and advocates for a new model of responsive science. Broadly speaking, the group seeks to learn enough to rectify a fundamental flaw in our universe: evolution has no moral compass.

Laurie Zoloth

Laurie Zoloth is the incoming Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School and currently serves as a Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, holding appointments in the Department of Religious Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research explores religion and ethics, drawing from sources ranging rom Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas. Her scholarship spans the ethics of genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. As a founding board member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, she also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy. She is the author of "Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice" and co-editor of five books, including "Notes from a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics" and "Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought".

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