From GM farm animals to embryonic stem cell research

October 23, 2007

'Genomics and Society: Today's Answers, Tomorrow's Questions' - taking place in London on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October 2007 - brings together policymakers, researchers and natural scientists with what is becoming the world's largest concentration of social scientific research in the field of genomics - the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Genomics Network (EGN).

DNA, genes and chromosomes are often described as the 'genetic information' that makes us what we are at birth. By considering together all this material from an organism, scientists find what they call its genome.

Genomics is the science of these genomes - their sequencing, mapping, analysis, and manipulation - all central to developments from GM crops and Dolly the sheep to DNA fingerprinting or treating diabetes and liver disease in humans.

This week's landmark gathering provides a showcase for important research findings from the first five years of work by the ESRC Genomics Network - ranging across five UK universities and involving more than 100 researchers - as well as examining big new questions emerging as it moves on to a second exciting phase.

Embryonic stem cell research, genetic databases and biobanks, and the potential for huge advances in medicine, physical health and psychiatry, feature among topics covered in lectures, debates, seminars and exhibitions. Jon Marks, distinguished author and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, will deliver a keynote speech, whilst a debate, hosted with the Institute of Ideas, will ensue on the battle over ethics and regulation.

The event is organised by the Network's Genomics Policy and Research Forum, which connects social science research on genomics with public policy debates and decision-making.

Its director, Professor Steve Yearley, said: "In the past week we have seen prominent genomics scientists, including Craig Venter and James Watson, bursting into the headlines. 'Genomics and Society: Today's Answers, Tomorrow's Questions' gives us a chance to examine the latest findings on how genomics - which embraces a whole range of biological processes from inheritance to development and beyond - is impacting on people's lives.

"The work of the ESRC Genomics Network spans the whole field - covering areas as diverse as plant genetics and issues around GM foods, embryonic stem cell research, health applications through biomedicine and gene therapy, and even creating new forms of life.

"This landmark event marking the Network's transition to a new five-year phase of funding, gives the opportunity for a cross-fertilisation of ideas and healthy debate on the past, present and future roles of genomics in society."




Event: 'Today's Answers, Tomorrow's Questions'

Venue: One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA.

Time: From 9.15am on Thursday, October 25 2007

EVENT OUTLINE:

Thursday 25th October

Welcome by Professor Steve Yearley; keynote speech by Jon Marks, University of North Carolina, Charlotte; and presentations from directors of the ESRC Genomics Network research centres.

In depth analyses including:Friday 26th October

Introduction by Professor Ian Diamond, chief executive of the ESRC and policy sessions including: Public consultation; How to use genetic information to advance public health; and 'Dolly for Dinner': emerging animal breeding technologies.

Ethics and Regulation: A debate, hosted with the Institute of Ideas, focuses on the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, and concerns and difficult questions raised.
-end-
For full programme details (including the event dinner) and to register for the event, please visit the dedicated conference website at: www.genomicsandsociety.org

Or contact Jo Law on 0131 651 4740, e-mail: jo.law@ed.ac.uk

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Emma Capewell, Press and Communications Officer, ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum on 0131 651 4746, or e-mail: emma.capewell@ed.ac.uk

ESRC Press Office:

Alexandra Saxon on Tel: 01793 413032, e-mail: alexandra.saxon@esrc.ac.uk
Danielle Moore, Tel: 01793 413122, e-mail: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. Launched in 2002 to examine the social and economic consequences surrounding the development and use of genomics, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Genomics Network is one of the ESRC's largest social science investments. The Network.consists of: Cesagen (Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics) a Cardiff-Lancaster collaboration led by Professor Ruth Chadwick; Egenis (ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society) headed by Professor John Dupré at Exeter; and Innogen (ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics) - collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the Open University, directed by Professor David Wield; and the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, led by Professor Steve Yearley, Professor of Sociology of Scientific Knowledge at Edinburgh University. The ESRC recently announced continued funding totalling £17 million between now and 2012 for the three research centres.

2. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research relevant to business, the public sector and voluntary organisations. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2007 - 08 is £181 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

3. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

Economic & Social Research Council

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