When complete human genomes can be sequenced for $1,000 or less, how will this change society? Will all newborns in wealthy countries get sequenced automatically as part of their permanent medical record? Will society start discriminating against people based on their genetic makeup, like the “Gattaca” nightmare scenario?
Bioethicists have been discussing these questions for a long time, but my personal sense is that it’s a debate society at large hasn’t really tuned into yet, but will be forced onto the agenda in the next couple years if scientists really are enabled to sequence 1 million human genomes. That’s why I’m really looking forward to a fascinating closing keynote chat about these issues at our next event in San Francisco—“Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome.”
This chat will come at the end of a half-day forum that will feature some of the emerging startups in genomic computing; strategies from Fortune 500 companies seeking to help scientists manage the DNA data deluge; and a conversation on how physicians are beginning to use the fast/cheap tools of genomics for personalized medicine.
All of the fascinating things we’re bound to hear could become moot if something careless happens and society decides to apply the brakes for ethical reasons. So that’s why I’m excited to have a trio of big thinkers together to talk about these issues at the end of the day, right before the networking hour. Here’s who you can expect to hear from:
—Thomas Goetz, executive editor, Wired, and the author of “The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine.” Goetz is accustomed to taking the big picture view of what’s going on in technology and medicine, and raising the key questions. He’ll be the moderator.
—Sue Siegel, general partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures. Siegel, a former president of Affymetrix, has been thinking about the societal implications of her investments in life sciences for a long time, and sees this story unfolding through her work on the boards of many emerging companies, including PacBio, Crescendo Bioscience, Navigenics, On-Q-ity, and Raindance Technologies.
—John Wilbanks, senior fellow, Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship. Wilbanks has long pursued an interest in open science. His latest work for the Kauffman Foundation is in developing a standardized genomic informed consent system for patients. He is also a director of Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit led by a former Merck executive who’s seeking to spark an open source movement for biology.
I’ll be the emcee of this gathering, keeping the trains running on time, making sure we have plenty of time for networking between sessions, and for your questions. There’s still time to get tickets, which you can get here at the registration page. See you there on Monday.
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