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From GM farm animals to embryonic stem cell research

Genomics and Society: Todays Answers, Tomorrows 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 worlds 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 weeks 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 Networks 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: Todays Answers, Tomorrows 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 peoples 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 Networks 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: Todays Answers, Tomorrows Questions

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

Time: From 9.15am on Thursday, October 25 2007


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:

  • Do DNA databases offer the best route to a healthy population and a secure society";

  • Is genomics the latest technological fix for the developing world";

  • What is driving stem cell research"; and

  • Will genomics revolutionise psychiatry and understanding of the brain";

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.


Contact: Danielle Moore
Economic & Social Research Council

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