Challenges of genetic knowledge

November 13, 2001

ANN ARBOR--Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, will be the keynote speaker Dec. 7 at the University of Michigan's fourth Wiesner Symposium, titled "Braving the New World: Benefits and Challenges of Genetic Knowledge."

As director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Collins leads the federal government's effort to construct a detailed map of the complete set of human genes.

U-M will webcast Collins' lecture live; for details, visit

During a day-long symposium, Collins and a group of leading scholars will discuss the ways in which our growing ability to understand the human genome is dramatically altering the landscape of biological science, medicine and health. They will examine the effects genetics research will have on social organization, whether the meaning of life itself is changing, and how we should confront new visions of what is humanly possible.

Panel presentations will focus on three topics: race, ethnicity and the human genome; genes and human nature; and designing life. Panelists include Georgia Dunston, microbiology, Howard University; Kenneth K. Kidd, genetics and psychiatry, Yale University; Thomas Bouchard, psychology, University of Minnesota; Eric Juengst, Center for Biomedical Ethics, Case Western Reserve University; Gregory Stock, U.C.L.A. Program on Medicine, Technology and Society; and Dorothy Nelkin, sociology, New York University.

Harold Shapiro, chairman of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee and former U-M president, is the symposium's dinner speaker.

Events around the symposium also include a film and discussion and morning workshop sessions on the challenges of commercialization, and values, ethics and social impact programs. The 1997 film "Gattaca" will be shown at 7 p.m., Dec. 6 in 100 Hutchins Hall, part of the Law Quad, on State Street. Eric Rabkin, U-M professor of English, will provide commentary on the film and lead a discussion.

The symposium is scheduled for Dec. 7, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., with Collins' lecture at 9 a.m. All events that day take place at Hale Auditorium in the U-M Business School, located on Hill and Tappan streets on U-M's Central Campus. The symposium dinner will move events to the Michigan Union on State Street. On Dec. 8, workshops will run 8:30 a.m.- noon at Hale Auditorium. For a map of U-M central campus:

The symposium and workshops are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Seating is limited for the dinner and Shapiro speech. More information and online registration are available at
The Wiesner symposium is co-sponsored by the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research and the Life Sciences, Values, and Society Program. It is named for Jerome B. Wiesner (1915-94), one of U-M's most distinguished alumni. He was science and technology adviser to Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy during a period of rapid growth in research and development in the United States, and served as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1971 until his retirement in 1980.

For more information about Collins:

University of Michigan

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