Nobel Conference 53
Reproductive Technology: How Far Do We Go?
October 3 & 4, 2017
From artificial insemination to in vitro fertilization to contraception, reproductive technologies have long raised a host of complex scientific, social, and ethical questions. New techniques and technologies, such as genome editing and mitochondrial transfer, complicate those questions even further. The 53rd Nobel Conference invites participants to consider how continuing innovations in reproductive technology challenge us to think about what it means to be human.
How have scientific and technological discoveries assisted, transformed, and suppressed reproduction, and how will they continue to shape age-old debates about fertility and reproduction, motherhood and fatherhood? How safe are new techniques and what might be their impact on human health and social health? Who decides which technologies to develop, how they are funded, and who should have access to them? This conference will explore the science of these emerging technologies and delve into the ethical complexities and social consequences that result when we reshape a process so central to human life.
Nobel Conference 53 will bring together an interdisciplinary panel of scholars and scientists from around the world to consider not only how far we can go but how far we should go.
National Public Radio
Jad Abumrad is the founder, producer and co-host of Radiolab, a program and podcast on National Public Radio. Radiolab describes itself as “a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Abumrad is the recipient of a 2011 MacArthur grant for his work creating Radiolab. He is also a composer and musician.
Abumrad will speak on the importance of understanding science as embedded in human experience and as part of larger philosophical inquiries about life.
Alison Murdoch is professor of reproductive medicine and head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Newcastle University. Murdoch is a part of the team of researchers who have been at the forefront of mitochondrial transfer. Murdoch, who has a background as a fertility clinician, was brought on to the team specifically to address the social and ethical implications of the work and manage the regulatory aspect of getting research approval. She is one of the first people in the world to have been granted approval to clone human embryos for the purpose of conducting research.
Murdoch will address mitochondrial transfer and the ethical and regulatory processes that impact such research in the UK.
Ruha Benjamin is assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University and 2016-17 fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. She is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier, as well as numerous articles and book chapters that examine the social dimensions of biotechnology.
Benjamin’s talk will propose a justice-oriented approach to reproductive technologies.
World Institute on Disability
Marsha Saxton is the director of research and training at the World Institute on Disability and also an instructor in disability studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She has written three books, two films, and more than one hundred articles and book chapters about disability rights, personal assistance, women's health, employment, violence prevention, and genetic screening issues. She has written extensively on the topic of disability rights and selective abortion.
Saxton will provide a disability studies perspectives on prenatal genetic testing.
National Institutes of Health
Diana Blithe is program director for the Male Contraceptive Development Program at the National Institutes of Health. As the co-director of the Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network, she oversees clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new contraceptive agents for men and women. Blithe’s work as a program director has given her a perspective on crucial questions about why and how particular contraceptive research gets funded. Blithe’s scientific expertise includes biochemistry, endocrinology, and glycobiology.
Blithe will report on the current state of research on male contraceptives.
University of California, Berkeley
Charis Thompson is the Chancellor's Professor and Chair of Gender & Women's Studies, and director of the Chau Hoi Shuen Program in Gender & Science at the University of California, Berkeley. A bioethicist, her current work on stem cell research emerged from earlier research on reproductive technologies, which was the subject of her book Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies. She is the also the author of Good Science: The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research.
Thompson will address the history of reproductive technologies and their impact on society.
University of California, Berkeley
Jacob Corn is Scientific Director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative. His laboratory, which includes branches at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, conducts core basic research on the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technique. Corn has also conducted pioneering work using CRISPR/Cas9 to treat diseases such as sickle cell anemia, an illustration of the priority he places upon the clinical implementations of this basic research. He has written thoughtfully on limiting the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in the human germline until we can better delineate safe and ethical parameters for its use.
Corn will discuss the CRISPR/Cas9 technique to edit the genome of human embryos, and the reasons he has chosen to refrain from such applications for the present.