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'After the Genome' tackles tough questions about medicine, miracles and morality

A few years ago, the idea of 3-D printing a major body organ like a kidney was unthinkable, but now scientists eye North Carolina as a national hub for human organs partly due to regenerative medicine research at Wake Forest University. Medical advances in biotechnology seem to be coming faster than the public can understand them all or even discuss how society should handle ethical, legal and moral considerations.

To spark the national conversation Wake Forest University has partnered with Baylor University for "After the Genome: The Language of our Biotechnological Future" April 12-13 at Wake Forest's Benson University Center. Fourteen scholars from across North America with expertise in medicine, science, religion and communication will present, including:

  • Baylor University President Ken Starr;
  • Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine Dr. Anthony Atala;
  • Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Dartmouth Ronald M. Green;
  • Ezra E.H. Griffith, Professor of Psychiatry and African-American Studies, Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist at Yale School of Medicine

The purpose of the conference is to discuss the vital topic of how language is shaping medical ethics, religion and competing visions of our biotechnological future. A complete schedule of speakers is available here.

"There is a rising awareness that the way we talk about science, biotechnology and medical miracles is not neutral, but suggests agendas," Michael Hyde, Wake Forest University Distinguished Professor of Communication Ethics and conference organizer said. "And this national conversation will help shape public expectations regarding medical science. How far can we stretch science to give us longer or better lives through medical miracles? And if we use the word miracle, should we consider the religious implications of biotechnological advances?"

In many conferences, the papers presented will be compiled into a publication, but in this case, the book comes first. Wake Forest University and Baylor University Press have worked for nearly two years to produce a book of essays containing the scholarship of the thought leaders who will present at the conference. That book will be released April 12, the day the conference begins.

The conference will end with a debate between Wake Forest University and Baylor University, using the presentations given over the two-day event as evidence and materials for discussion. Both schools trace their debate team histories back to the 1850s and have national titles under their belts. "It should be a spirited conversation," Hyde said.

Beyond the language, biotechnology has enormous economic implications. North Carolina is third in the nation behind California and Massachusetts when it comes to the life-science industrial sector and it generates $59 billion in economic activity, according to a recent study.

The Provost's Fund, Department of Communications, Humanities Institute and the Center for Bioethics, Health and Society at Wake Forest University, along with the Provost's Fund, Baylor University Press and the Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor University organized the event.

FAQ and additional information

Is the conference open to the public?

Logistical details

  • Please visit for detailed schedule and panelist information.
  • Unless otherwise specified, events will take place in Pugh Auditorium at Benson University Center.
  • Please contact the Wake Forest news office to obtain media credentials to any part of the conference.

Which participants have North Carolina ties?

  • Nathan O. Hatch, President, Wake Forest University
  • Anthony Atala, W.H. Boyce Professor and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Chair of the Department of Urology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine
  • Michael J. Hyde University Distinguished Professor of Communication Ethics, Department of Communication at Wake Forest University and holds a joint appointment in the Program for Bioethics, Health and Society, Wake Forest School of Medicine
  • Tristan Keys, Resident in the urology department at Wake Forest Baptist Health
  • Nancy M.P. King, Professor of Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest school of Medicine and Co-Director of the Master of Arts in Bioethics Program and the Center for Bioethics, Health and Society, Wake Forest University
  • Bill J. Leonard, James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies, Professor of Church History and Religion, Wake Forest University


Contact: Stephanie Skordas
Wake Forest University

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