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The 2013 EMBO | EMBL Science and Society conference will focus on how the use of genomic information may benefit individual and public health.

The interdisciplinary group of speakers will present the status of genetic and genomic research and discuss the ethical, legal, economic and societal implications as well as the practical challenges of implementing new knowledge into medical care.


More information

Since the first draft of the human genome sequence more than a decade ago, and after advances in many areas of biomedical science, the role of genetics and genomics in medical research, practice and delivery of health care has been growing. Genetic information already plays an important role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of some cancers. Recent advances in prenatal diagnostics allow detection of genetic diseases or conditions within the first trimester of pregnancy and the possibility to act on them before birth or immediately after.

Ideally, widespread use of genetic tools will allow the identification of diseases before the onset of clinical symptoms, the individualisation of drug treatment, and could induce individual behavioural changes on the basis of calculated disease risk. However, many challenges remain for the successful translation of genomic knowledge and technologies into health advances, such as medicines and diagnostics.

Some of these challenges are scientific: the relationship between genes and variants for most diseases and conditions is still not clear, nor how they interact with lifestyle and environmental factors. More research is needed to unravel these complex interactions.

Mechanisms to monitor and assess genomic medicine in comparison to current medical practices will have to be developed in order to guarantee clinical utility; health care economics will have to be considered as well.

Moreover, some policy challenges need to be resolved, including concerns about privacy and confidentiality of genetic information; the regulation and standardisation of genetic tests; and the role of general practitioners in the implementation of genetic advances.

Concerns about the possible impacts on society and individuals have also been raised, in particular on the effects of prenatal diagnostics of some genetic conditions, on the changing role of individuals and patients in making decisions about their own health, and on the psychological responses to personal genetic information.

These and other issues will be presented and discussed during the two days of the conference.

The Science and Society conference series

The aim of these joint meetings is to promote mutual interest, understanding, and dialogue between biologists, specialists from related disciplines, policy makers and members of the public interested in how modern biology affects society.


Everyone is welcome to attend.


In the news

FDA orders 23andMe to halt sales of DNA tests, Nature news, 25 November

Genome hacker uncovers largest-ever family tree, Nature news, 28 October

Improving genome understanding, Nature, 10 October

Genepeeks firm to offer 'digital baby' screen for sperm donors, BBC news, 4 October

'Designer Babies', WSJ, 3 October

Personalized Medicine May Be Good For Patients But Bad For Drug Companies, Forbes, 25 September

Ask, and science may receive, DDN news, September

Why personalised medicine is bad for us all, New Scientist, 16 September

DNA double take, The New York Times, 16 September

The college class that could reveal your real father, Salon, 15 September

Next-generation sequencing: The genome jigsaw, Nature, 11 September

Health care: Bring on the evidence, Nature, 11 September

The right to genetic ignorance, New Scientist, 6 September

Scientists to sequence genomes of hundreds of newborns, Nature News blog, 4 September

Rich nations not collaborating in genomics for public health, says OECD, PharmaTimes, 19 August

Balancing privacy with public benefit, Nature, 7 August

Biospecimen policy: Family matter, Nature, 7 August

Deal done over HeLa cell line, Nature, 7 August

A Family Consents to a Medical Gift, 62 Years Later, The New York Times, 7 August

NIH 'superbug' was thwarted with help of two scientists, The Washington Post, 1 August

Family first, Nature, 26 June

Agency Nixes deCODE's New Data-Mining Plan, Science, 21 June

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Human Gene Patents, Science News, 13 June

Genomics Impact on U.S. Economy Approaches $1 Trillion, Science News, 12 June

Biology: The big challenges of big data, Nature, 12 June