From genomes to cures interdisciplinary conference in Heidelberg, Germany

November 16, 2001

Research into the genetic basis of life is a matter of interest to anyone. For this reason EMBO and EMBL are looking forward to welcoming a broad public audience for the next few days of active dialogue about genetic research and its implications. In addition to scientists, doctors, patients, ethics experts and sociologists, teachers, students and people from all walks of life are invited to take part in the weekend's discussions.

The progress of science during the past decade has made a decisive impact on our social community. New diagnostic methods can specifically diagnose illnesses much earlier than was previously possible. New therapeutic approaches for faster, better treatment can now start being developed.

Hope has been aroused for many that incurable illnesses may soon be cured by much more individually specific treatment and cure. Our knowledge is still limited, however, and some incurable inherited diseases, such as Huntington's chorea, can now be genetically predicted but not cured. In particular circumstances a person's blissful ignorance could now be supplanted by the right, or even obligation, to be diagnosed. Critics of the new advances fear erosion of the individual right to privacy and the creation of the transparent person. Insurers, employers or others could obtain information that only the individual should have a right to own.

"This forum will offer people the chance to become informed about recent advances and discuss the advantages, risks and concerns related to the availability of human genomic sequence", says Andrew Moore, leading the Science and Society Project at EMBO, which is organising the conference.

Beyond the theme of genetic sequence acquisition, the EMBO/ EMBL weekend forum continues the recently expanded discussion about the effects of advances in the life sciences on the community. "Although Europe has stayed conservative towards modern biotechnological changes, perhaps in comparison to the American community, progress in biological research is accompanied by potentially great economic benefits to the European community." Andrew Moore adds that "responsible exploitation of biotechnological advances can only succeed with the active cooperation of all the parties involved. Science must regain a firm position in the centre of society-a constructive public dialogue is a step along the right path."

European Molecular Biology Laboratory is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to