|Wiesner Symposium keynote speaker Francis Collins (left) chats with Interim President B. Joseph White before presenting his talk. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)|
Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, spoke about the coming implications of genetics in medicine during his keynote address at the Wiesner Symposium Dec. 7.
While the developments have great potential, Collins warned they also open complex debates: Will all people, or only the wealthy, have access to advanced treatments? How will society cope with knowledge that could lead to job or insurance discrimination? Does this progress mean we are taking charge of evolution, and if so, how does that affect our relationship with God?
Collins said that while genetic defects might directly cause a disease like cystic fibrosis, a disease like AIDS, which occurs after exposure to a virus, also has a genetic component because some peoples genes might give them more natural immunity to the virus.
By understanding diseases genetic roots, researchers can find new ways to treat and prevent disease. For example, Collins predicted that:
Collins, on leave from the University, kicked off two days of events hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Life Sciences Values and Society Program (LSVSP).
Also on the agenda was a dinner lecture by Harold Shapiro, chairman of the National Bioethics Commission and former U-M president, who also spoke at the Department of Psychiatrys Raymond W. Waggoner Lectureship on Ethics and Values in Medicine (see related story page 6).
Panel discussions on such topics as race, ethnicity and the human genome, and the challenges of commercialization included some of the countrys most respected life sciences leaders.
In introductory remarks, Fawwaz Ulaby, vice president for research, explained that the goal of the Wiesner Symposium is to help shape the national agenda at a high level by bringing together leaders from academic, government, business and non-profit roles.
Science issues are easy, relatively speaking, but the social questions science raises are the tough nut to crack, said Richard Lempert, director of the Values and Society Program. Collins presentation was co-sponsored as the second-annual Distinguished LSVSP speaker.
To view the Collins lecture on your computer, visit the Web at www.lifesciences.umich.edu/news/collins.html and scroll down to the see the webcast link. Youll need RealPlayer, and a link to download it for free is just below the webcast link.