June 7, 2016

VUMC part of national briefing Wednesday on gene-drive research

Elizabeth Heitman, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine in the VUMC Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, will participate in a national briefing beginning at 9 a.m. CDT Wednesday, June 8 to discuss the release of a new report on “gene-drive” research.

To view a free webcast of the briefing, click here (ow.ly/VaHZ300TYBk) and scroll down to “Gene Drives on the Horizon.”

The advent of new gene editing tools has enabled scientists to harness the natural ability of “selfish” genes to pass from a parent organism to nearly all offspring. In this way, new genetic traits can be “driven” through an entire species.

While such research could lead to a way to suppress or eliminate disease-carrying insects or invasive species, for example, concerns about safety and the potential ecological impact of gene-drive modified organisms also have been raised. These issues are examined in the report.
Heitman was a member of a committee of the Board on Life Sciences of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that wrote the report. The NASEM is hosting Wednesday’s event.