What is Life? The Science and Ethics of Making New Life in the Laboratory
Radcliffe Day 2014 Panel Discussion

Friday, May 30, 2014
4 p.m.–5:15 p.m.
Location: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Yard

How has knowledge of the human genome transformed the biological sciences? How should we assess the promises, perils, and ethics of creating new organisms in the laboratory?

Panelists' Biographies

Eric S. Lander

President and Founding Director, Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Professor of Biology, MIT; and Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School (MODERATOR)

Lander is the founding director and serves as a core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. One of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, Lander, with his colleagues, has created many of the key tools of human genomics and has applied these tools to pioneer new ways to understand the basis of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases. In 2009 President Barack Obama appointed him to cochair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Lander earned his BA at Princeton University and his PhD at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

I. Glenn Cohen JD ’03, RI ’13

Professor of Law and Codirector, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics, Harvard Law School

Cohen works at the intersection of bioethics, health care, and the law. He is the editor of The Globalization of Healthcare: Legal and Ethical Issues and has four edited volumes in production. He coauthored an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court for Eric Lander in the Myriad case concerning whether human genes are patent eligible subject matter. As a Radcliffe fellow, he worked on Patients with Passports: Medical Tourism, Law, and Ethics (under contract Oxford University Press), the first comprehensive analysis of the legal and ethical issues associated with medical tourism. He earned his BA at the University of Toronto.

Linda Griffith RI ’11

Professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering and Director, Center for Gynepathology Research, MIT

Griffith works in the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, designing biomaterials and devices to control the behavior of cells and tissues. Her lab created the first tissue-engineered cartilage in the shape of a human ear and coinvented a 3-D printing process used to manufacture FDA-approved scaffolds for bone regeneration. As a Radcliffe fellow, Griffith integrated tissue engineering with systems biology to examine endometriosis, revealing how analysis of complex inflammatory networks could be used in new ways to stratify patients. Griffith earned her BChE at Georgia Tech and her PhD at the University of California at Berkeley.

David R. Liu ’94

Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University; Senior Associate Member, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Liu integrates chemistry and evolution to illuminate and program biology. His research interests include the evolution of proteins that manipulate human cells for therapeutic applications, the discovery of new structures and functions among cellular nucleic acids, and the discovery of therapeutically relevant synthetic molecules using DNA-templated organic synthesis, an approach pioneered in his laboratory. Liu has earned the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize and the Roslyn Abramson Teaching Award. He was appointed a Harvard College Professor in 2007. Liu majored in chemistry, graduating first in his class at Harvard. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.

Pamela Silver RI ’12

Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School; Founding Core Faculty Member, Wyss Institute, Harvard University

Silver builds cell-based machines, designing novel therapeutics and reengineering photosynthetic bacteria to produce hydrogen and other fuels. She has led projects for the Department of Energy on new approaches for developing microbial biofuels and on creating a biologically based economy for DARPA. She recently created an engineered gut bacteria that can report on exposure to drugs in animals. As a Radcliffe fellow, Silver examined the practical and ethical issues around the engineering of biology. Silver earned both degrees at the University of California, her BS at Santa Cruz and her PhD at Los Angeles.

Recommended Resources

New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies, the report of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, chaired by Amy Gutmann ’71.

Synthetic Biology

Adventures in Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology Project

Synthetic Biology - The Hastings Center

The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology