bioethics


Genomics-Palooza, Diagnostics Fraud, and Biblical Prophets on the Future of Biotech

What a week for Americans . . . What a week for genomics!

The Supreme Court rulings that Americans can keep their Obamacare and can all get married - no matter what state they live in - added the final good news to a week of genomics festivities around the country.

But it's not all positive news this week. The New York Times featured a diagnostics company under review by Medicare for fraud. Allegedly, the New Orleans based Renaissance Rx has been paying doctors to sign up patients for a huge trial of genomic based tests, even when the patients didn't qualify.

And, at the suggestion of NYU's Art Caplan, we went out in search of some modern day biblical prophets to see what will be the future of life science.

We'll be off next week, so we'll say it now, happy birthday, America!

 

Ethical Issues around Editing Human Germline for the Future. Today It's about Plants and Animals, Says NYU's Art Caplan

 Art Caplan is a prodigious writer on the topic of medical ethics. How prodigious? How about thirty-two books and over 700 peer reviewed papers on ethical conundrums ranging from organ donation to end of life care.

He spends about half his time as a public figure, engaging the lay audience, for example, through op-eds like his recent piece for the Washington Post arguing that doctors who oppose vaccination should lose their license. The other half of his time he spends developing materials meant for an academic audience.

In today’s interview, Art begins by saying that ethical issues around the genome editing of plants and animals are much more pressing today than the current furor over human germline editing. That we can leave to our grandchildren, he says. What we must pay more attention to now is the introduction of genetically engineered mosquitos into the ecosystem.

Well versed in all of the major ethical issues which have surfaced here at Mendelspod, including the rise of prenatal diagnostics and abortions and the evolution of privacy, Art is pro science and technology, yet still sees himself like a “biblical prophet."

Just what is the role of a bioethicist? Is it possible to slow down science and technology?

 

Should We Hold Back the Reins on Biotechnology? with Chris Gunter

A very unique biotechnology event took place this week.

BEINGS 2015, or the Biotech and the Ethical Imagination Global Summit, was held at The Tabernacle, a former church turned concert hall in Atlanta, Georgia. The venue was not the only unusual thing for a summit about science. Speakers at the meeting included a well known linguist, a famous Canadian novelist, and Catholic rector along with professors of bioethics, law, and, of course, biology.

The summit was not particularly about science, but about biotech in a cultural context. Speakers pursued some of the most daunting questions humans face: Should we ever try to slow science down? Is this even possible? And if it is, who should be the regulators?

Chris Gunter is an Associate Professor at Emory University, host of the event. She not only attended the meeting but was one of the delegates who took part in a session after the main conference. The delegates were tasked with arriving at a consensus on standards to guide the future of biotechnology. That’s all.

“There’s never been an event like this before,” says Chris, a former editor at Nature, at the outset of today's show.

The Impossible Job of Genetic Counseling: Misha Angrist Part I

Guest:

Misha Angrist, Author, Assoc. Professor, Duke Institute for Genomic Sciences

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (7:25) New MA in Bioethics and Science Policy

Listen (7:58) Can we embrace NIPT without losing compassion for those with developmental disabilities?

Listen (3:24) How does the process of bioethics work?

Listen (7:41) The unsung heroines

Duke University's Institute of Genome Sciences and Policy will be gone on July 1st. It was announced earlier this year that the flagship institute will be broken up into several new programs. This gave us the perfect excuse to talk about science policy and bioethics challenges in a two part interview with an old Mendelspod friend, Misha Angrist. Misha is an associate professor at Duke and a well known author (Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics). He'll be working with Nita Farahany in the new Duke Science and Society Program which is introducing an MA in Bioethics and Science Policy later this fall.

Part I of Misha's interview begins with a discussion about the new masters degree, a first of its kind, and then moves on to a broader discussion of prenatal diagnostics (NIPT). Misha shares some of his concerns with the rapid uptake of prenatal testing, summing up with a question:

"Can we embrace NIPT without losing our compassion for people with developmental problems?"

Misha says he's not a bioethicist (why doesn't anyone want to call themselves a bioethicist?) but then offers some insight into the process of bioethics.

"One of the problems that bioethics has is that we like to traffic in the binary, that things are either/or, and we pit things against each other. That's not always appropriate."

But the meat of the interview has to be Misha's passion for the genetic counselor. Misha jokes about his own path as an "almost" genetic counselor, then goes on to say that:

"Genetic counselors are unsung heroes--or heroines, since the overwhelming majority of them are female. They have an impossible, thankless job. They have to deliver bad news very often to people who may or may not be prepared to hear it."

Stay tuned for Part II of the discussion where Misha shares his thoughts on 23andMe and the future of DTC testing.

Podcast brought to you by: See your company name here. - Promote your organization by aligning it with today's latest trends.

An Industrial Revolution of Digital Healthcare: Interview with Sultan Meghji

Guest:

Sultan Meghji, Founder, Reformation Medicine

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (4:20) The end of technology as a specialty

Listen (4:12) Sequencing devices still a bottleneck for clinical genomics

Listen (4:39) How to become a bioinformatician in six months

Listen (4:39) Basic scientists vs. technicians

Listen (8:19) Going through the Industrial Revolution of digital health

Listen (5:05) Do you think about bioethics?

Listen (4:49) Yes to regulation, and yes to access for everyone

Data scientists like Sultan Meghji are a highly valued species in today's world. Beginning his career at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) where he worked on original internet technologies, Sultan has used his expertise in several industries, including finance, air transportation, and now biotechnology.

We've had Sultan on for a couple shows already, and his broad experience and far reaching vision made him an obvious choice for our series, The Bioinformatician Bottleneck.

"We could graduate ten times what we're graduating every year for a decade, and I still wouldn't be convinced that we have enough [bioinformaticians]," he says in today's interview.

What to do about it? Sultan has suggestions, one of which is to have a "Khan Academy style program for How to Become a Bioinformatician in 6 Months." What about the years it takes to train great basic scientists in an age when biologists are already being called "mere technicians?" Sultan says technicians can handle much of the work of commercializing research.

Sultan goes on to suggest there are other important bottlenecks, including the sequencing tools space. Does he stop to think about bioethics? And is he for or against FDA regulation of personal genomic information? Today's show is far reaching and centered around Sultan's goal of bringing genomics to the masses.

"It's almost like the Industrial Revolution of digital healthcare," he says. "We're going to call it something else, but . . .at some point my blood, or some part of me, is going to go into a diagnostic black box, and out is going to come some recommendation that a doctor didn't actually look at. And I'm going to take it to the bank."

Podcast brought to you by: Roswell Park Cancer Insititute, dedicated to understanding, preventing and curing cancer for over 115 years.

The Fun Problems: Hank Greely Talks Bioethics

Guest: Hank Greely, Professor of Law, Stanford

Bio and Contact Info

Chapters: (Advance the marker)

0:39 What led you to bioethics?

3:51 Problems that can't have clean answers

7:27 How do you know when you're successful?

11:17 Informed consent, privacy

20:18 What is your definition for ethics?

25:35 Intentional selection/eugenics

30:02 Carefully drawn regulation will help the industry

The advance of biotechnology presents society with some thorny issues. And it's just these problems which Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford, seeks out. In today's interview, Greely asserts that, as if it wasn't already tough enough pursuing the scientific problems, there are others which are hard in different ways.

"Some of these problems can't have clean answers where principles that we really care about generally are in conflict," he says. "The best you can do is look for less bad compromises."

What are Greely's ideas on incidental or secondary findings? On informed consent and privacy? On eugenics? What is his definition for ethics in general? What for many in the industry is a briar patch, Greely nimbly dances through with aplomb.

Podcast brought to you by: Chempetitive Group - "We love science. We love marketing. We love the idea of combining the two to make great things happen for your marketing communications."

Disruption, Dissent, and Diversity at Burrill's PM Meeting

Last week Burrill and Co. put on their 9th annual Personalized Medicine Conference.  The Burrill meetings are known for straight talk on business matters, in depth panel discussions, working lunches, star speakers, and of course, Steve Burrill.  While this year’s meeting followed in that path, there was more diversity, more disagreement, more complexity. 

IPOs, and more IPOs

Burrill kicked off his usual state of the industry talk with a caveat that echoed throughout the show,  “healthcare doesn’t follow normal laws of economics.”

Nola Masterson: "Guru of Biotech"

Podcast brought to you by: Chempetitive Group - "We love science. We love marketing. We love the idea of combining the two to make great things happen for your marketing communications."

Guest: Nola Masterson, Founder, Science Futures

Bio and Contact Info

Chapters: (Advance the marker)

0:59 A career with many "firsts"

5:00 Some very creative financing models in the early days

9:11 Going for the "big one" and the founding of Sequenom

17:08 What excites you about the industry today?

20:10 Bioethics and the Dalai Lama

23:47 The open science conflict

26:16 Bullish about the IT industry bringing biotech into the 21st Century

28:25 A childhood dream come true

Today's show will give you some of everything. Our guest is Nola Masterson. She was the first biotech analyst on Wall Street, she's a founder of Sequenom, and she blazed trails in venture capital. Ever on the front lines, she reminisces about earlier times, but also weighs in on issues of today. What perspective has her career given her on bioethics? What does she think of the strong movement toward "open science." Never at a loss, Nola Masterson has been called "the guru of biotech."

Big Data Takes the Stage at Stanford

We're currently developing a series on big data here at Mendelspod.  So we jumped at the chance to attend the first 'Big Data in BioMedicine Conference' put on at Stanford in conjunction with the University of Oxford.  The conference gave a great overview of the topic, reaching not only into all that omics data, but health IT and public health as well.  

Documenting the History of Biotech and its Relevance: Mark Jones, Life Sciences Foundation

Podcast brought to you by: Chempetitive Group - Who for more than a decade has helped science-based companies build and execute innovative marketing campaigns. "We love science. We love marketing. We love the idea of combining the two to make great things happen for your marketing communications."

Guests:

Mark Jones, Director of Research, Life Sciences Foundation Bio and Contact Info

Listen (7:14) Why is recording biotech history important?

Listen (11:48) Biotech history, such as that of recombinant DNA, can shed light on current ethical debates

Listen (6:04) A history of tech transfers

Listen (4:12) Can history provide insight to current gene patent case?

Biotech has been around for a while now. Some of the original pioneers of the field are getting along in years or have passed. To record and preserve the history of biotech, the Life Sciences Foundation has been established. Their website is becoming a rich, one stop source, to trace back the big achievements of the last 40-50 years with lots of videos and articles on the pioneers and major players in our field. In addition to the website, the foundation puts out a regular magazine and sponsors events such as the talk and reception at UCSF recently entitled the Centaur and the Whale and the emergence of biotech, an event devoted to remembering two early biotech companies, Chiron and Cetus.

Mark Jones is the director of research at the Life Sciences Foundation and has recently been going around the country taking down oral histories. In today's show he talks about what the history of the industry can tell us about issues of today.



New to Mendelspod?

We advance life science research, connecting people and ideas.
Register here to receive our newsletter.

or skip signup