Biotechnology: Social and Ethical Considerations

Biotechnology: Social and Ethical Considerations


The Ethics Center has an ongoing partnership with NC Biotech to bring programming about timely issues in Biotechnology, particularly as they affect North Carolina.  In academic year 2016-17, we are continuing our exploration of the ramifications of "precision medicine," an NIH-backed initiative to use genomics, data analytics, and other informatically rich material to deliver medicine to respond to the personal needs of patients.  Some of the most promising early research in personalized medicine is in cancer therapy, where genetic testing of tumors and targeted immunotherapy regimes have made previously untreatable cases - like President Carter's metastatic melanoma - treatable.  But this cancer research promises to be only the tip of the iceberg, and our speakers are leaders in the field, both as practicioners and academics, in studying the ethical and social implications of what promises to be a profound shift in the way medicine is practiced.


Previous programming includes:


2015-16: Precision medicine.  Speakers included:

  • Lynn Dressler, Director of Personalized Medicine, Fullerton Genetics Center and Mission SECU Cancer Center, Mission Health, Asheville, NC, who spoke on "Developing a personalized medicine program in a community hospital system: what’s ELSI got to do with it?"
  • Jonathan Kahn, James E. Kelley Prof. of Tort Law and Prof. Law, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who spoke on "The Troubling Persistence of Race in Personalized Medicine"
  • Jennifer Fishman, Associate Professor in the Biomedical Ethics Unit, Social Studies of Medicine Dept., McGill University (Montreal), who spoke on "Let's Pull These Technologies Out of the Ivory Tower': The Ethics, Values, and Politics of Participant-Driven Genomic Research"
  • Eric Juengst, Director of the UNC Center for Bioethics and Professor in the Department of Social Medicine and the Department of Genetics at UNC Chapel Hill.  Prof. Juengst's talk inspired the series; in April 2015, he spoke on "From 'Peronsalized Medicine' to 'Precision Medicine:' What's in a Name?'


2014-15: Food, Race and Social Justice:

Discussions of food and ethics have typically centered either on ethical concerns relating to eating meat, on the one hand, or on the development of transgenic foods, on the other.  We hope with this series to begin to broaden the conversation, promoting an awareness that, at every level, food is an important part of what makes us who we are, in our communities and our differences.  Possible topics included urban food deserts, sustainability, GMO/transgenic foods, local versus non-local sourcing, and systemic problems, such as urbanization and increasing land rents, and impeding food security in developing countries.  Speakers included:

  • Paul B. Thompson, Professor of Philosophy and the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University, who spoke on "The Ethics and Philosophy of Industrial Agriculture"
  • Julie Guthman, Professor in the Division of Social Sciences and Co-Director, Multicampus Research Program on Food and the Body, University of California Santa Cruz, "Killing to Make Life: The Biopolitics of Soil Fumigant Regulation in California’s Strawberry Industry"
  • Daniel Goldberg (JD/PhD) is Asstant Professor in the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, "Food Policy, the Social Determinants of Health, and the General Insignificance of Individual Responsibility"
  • Elizabeth Racine is Associate Prof. of Public Health Sciences at UNC Charlotte, "Looking at the Food in Food Deserts"


2013-14: Neuroethics:

  • Richard Robeson, Adjunct Professor of Social Medicine, Department of Social Medicine, UNC School of Medicine, "Drawn and Quartered - Medicine, Motivation, and the Student Athlete"
  • Dan Moseley, Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept. psychiatry, UNC Chapel Hill, "Neuroethics, Identity and Free Will"
  • Judy Illes, Professor of Neurology and Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics, University of British Columbia, "Ethics, Society, and Advances in Brain Science" and "Genes and the Brain: Ethical Issues at the Nexus of Genomics and Neuroscience"


2012-13: Individualized Medicine:

  • Nancy King, JD, Professor, Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Co-Director, Wake Forest University Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society. “Individualized Genomic Medicine:  Is It Fair?”
  • Michael Manolakis, PhD, School of Pharmacy, Wingate University, “Should Pharmacogenetics Drive Health Plan Coverage Decisions”
  • Hank Greely, PhD, Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences:  Professor (by courtesy) of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine, “Personalized Genomic Medicine."