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UMBC Presents "Ethical Implications of Synthetic Life" Symposium

April 2, 2008 4:00-5:30 pm
(reception to follow)
Albin O. Kuhn Library
7th Floor Conference Room

The J. Craig Venter Institute recently announced the creation of the world's first wholly synthetic bacterial genome. For better or worse, this achievement by the celebrated and controversial scientist and his team marked the beginning of human-designed life on Earth.

On April 2, the entire campus community and the public are invited to an interdisciplinary symposium, "The Ethical Implications of Synthetic Life," featuring discussions from top experts in bioethics, genomics and policy on the social, political and moral implications of this rapidly growing technology with vast potential to be either friendly or a 21st-century Frankenstein.

Directions to UMBC and Parking Information.

Welcome and Introductions by:

Andrea L. Kalfoglou, Ph.D.

Department of Sociology/Anthropology
Health Administration and Policy Program


Stephen Freeland, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences


Glenn McGee, Ph.D.
Alden March Bioethics Institute
Albany Medical College
Albany, New York

Glenn McGee is the founding director of Alden March Bioethics Institute, a comprehensive, university-based bioethics research, clinical and outreach program in New York's state capital. His research focuses on the impact of new technologies on our personal, social and political lives. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Bioethics. Prof. McGee is the author of five books, including Beyond Genetics (2004). His upcoming book explores ethical issues in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Professor McGee has authored hundreds of essays and articles in journals of medicine, science and bioethics such as Science, JAMA, and Nature Genetics. In addition, his work reaches a wider readership through his regular columns for MSNBC (2000-2003) and for Hearst Newspapers, distributed by the NYT News Service. Prof. McGee has testified in 23 state legislatures, and before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. He has assisted California, New York and Rhode Island in the authorship of proposed legislation dealing with cloning and stem cells. He has conducted bioethics training for incoming members of Congress and for the Counsel of Chief Judges of the Courts of Appeals. He was recently named one of the top ten influential people in Albany, and in 2006, was named to the inaugural Google, Nature and O'Reilly Science Foo Camp. He is one of the 2004 Seed magazine’s Third Culture, "scientists and thinkers who have a propensity for writing directly and very eloquently for the general public." Prof. McGee holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Vanderbilt University and completed a post-doc through the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues program.

Jaydee Hanson, M.A.
Policy Director/Political Activist
International Center for Technology Assessment
Washington, DC

Jaydee Hanson directs the CTA's work on human genetics, including work on stem cell research, cloning, and gene/embryo patenting. He also works on the convergence of biotechnology and nanotechnology. He is a fellow of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future. Prior to coming to CTA in 2004, he served as The United Methodist Church's staff director of genetics and bioethics issues from 1981 to 2004. From 1991 to 2004, he also was the legislative director for the church. Mr. Hanson has testified to many state and US congressional hearings on human cloning, animal and gene patenting, and related issues. He coordinated the 1995 religious leaders' statement opposing gene and animal patenting, which was endorsed by over 200 leaders from every US religious tradition. Hanson has served on many committees related to public policy and genetics. He chaired the National Council of Churches' Exploratory Commission on the New Human Genetics and chaired the National Council of Churches' Eco-justice Working Group biotechnology taskforce. He is a member of the World Council of Churches' genetics and nanotechnology committees, which developed new policy for that world-wide body of 400 denominations. He served on the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science and Religion Advisory Committee and the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science and Religion.

Jef Boeke, Ph.D.
Professor Molecular Biology & Genetics
Johns Hopkins Medical Institute
Baltimore, MD

Dr. Jef D. Boeke is Professor of Molecular Biology & Genetics, Professor of Oncology, and Director of the High Throughput Biology Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He elucidated one of the major forms of DNA movement (transposition) in yeast cells, in which Ty1 elements move via reverse transcription of RNA. He coined the term “retotransposition” to describe this unusual process. His work elucidated the intricate molecular mechanisms involved in retrotransposition in yeast and human cells. Retrotransposition formed about half of all human DNA and has been a major force in the evolution of the genomes of many organisms. His recent work suggests that retrotransposition may have profound effects on the expression of those genes and could thus contribute to common genetic diseases. His laboratory has also constructed highly active synthetic retrotransposons with a wide variety of practical and academic uses. His interest in Synthetic Biology has led to an interdisciplinary effort to redesign and synthesize the genome of the brewer’s yeast, in part using a team of undergraduates in the new course “Build A Genome” being taught at Johns Hopkins.

Gautam Mukunda, Ph.D.(c)
Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Mr. Gautam’s doctoral research is focused on international relations. He was a consultant with McKinsey & Company focusing in the pharmaceutical and financial sectors. He is currently the Founding Managing Director of the Two Rivers Group, a consulting firm that brings the insights and knowledge of the academic world to bear on the problems facing the private, public, and non-profit sectors. He was Administrator of the Russian Investment Symposium and Program Coordinator of the Kommersant Program on Executive Education in Russia at the Kennedy School of Government. His current research interests include leadership in competitive organizations, the implications of black swan events on international politics, and the security and economic implications of emerging technologies, particularly Synthetic Biology. He is a member of MIT’s Security Studies Program and Program on Emerging Technologies, and he is the social sciences representative on the Student Leadership Council of the National Science Foundaton’s Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC). He graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Government in 2001, magna cum laude. He is a 2005 Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellow, a 2006 Carnegie Endowment Biosecurity Fellow, and a 2007-2009 National Science Foundation IGERT Fellow.

Sponsored by:

The Dresher Center for the Humanities
UMBC Department of Sociology and Anthropology
UMBC Department of Biological Sciences
UMBC College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences
UMBC College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
The UMBC Bioethics Student Association

For more information, please contact Prof. Andrea Kalfoglou at akalfogl@umbc.edu or 410-455-2061.

Posted: March 7, 2008, 12:00 PM