This summer in Washington, D.C., Penn President Amy Gutmann led the first meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues — a 13-member group which she was appointed to chair by President Barack Obama in November.
This week, Gutmann brought the discussion home when she hosted the second meeting of the Presidential Commission on Monday and Tuesday at Penn.
Approximately 125 people attended Monday’s panel and about 60 people attended Tuesday’s panel discussion, which focused on closely examining both the risks and benefits of the developing field of synthetic biology.
The Presidental Commission is “committed to providing President Obama with recommendations about any action the federal government should take to ensure that America reaps the benefits of synthetic biology while minimizing its risks,” Gutmann said.
The Presidential Commission — which includes Penn Law Professor Anita Allen — and audience members listened to panelists discuss the practice of synthetic biology and the prospects of translating the field into useful discoveries. Other discussion topics included philosophical and theological views on synthetic biology, social responsibility and stewardship, risk assessment, ethics and security issues related to synthetic biology.
Notable panelists included School of Medicine professors Jonathan Moreno, David Weiner and Arthur Caplan, who is also the director of the Center for Bioethics at Penn.
Sydney Brenner, a Nobel Prize Laureate and Lasker Award winner who discovered messenger RNA with Francis Crick in 1961, was also present.
Caplan, who has been working in the field of synthetic biology since 1999, said he thought Penn’s hosting of the Presidential Commission was great because “it’s high visibility for Penn, and puts Penn in a position to influence public policy.”
“Overall, I was very impressed,” he said of the panel.
Both Caplan and Moreno said opening the discussion to the public was especially important.
“It’s a great way for people to feel they are a part of thinking though this issue,” Moreno said, adding that “in the field of bioethics, Penn is clearly a global leader.”
The next meeting of the Commission will be Nov. 16 - 17 in Atlanta at Emory University, where the Commission’s Vice-Chairman James Wagner serves as president.Comments powered by Disqus
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