Conversations on Science, Society & the Future of Gene Editing
CRISPRcon is a unique forum bringing diverse voices together to discuss the future of CRISPR and related gene editing technologies across applications in agriculture, health, conservation, and more. CRISPRcon sparks curiosity, builds understanding, and highlights societal histories and other context relevant to decisions on gene editing technologies. CRISPRcon is a program of the Keystone Policy Center. Learn more.
CRISPRcon returns this fall with a series of discussions exploring gene editing’s role in COVID-19 testing and treatment, racial disparities and inequities, strategies to address climate change, and other pressing issues. In a year that has transformed the world in unexpected ways, join us virtually for a dynamic, diverse, and timely lineup that will consider gene editing across applications, disciplines, geographies, communities, cultures, and perspectives.
Spanning September and October, the CRISPRcon 2020 series will feature two webinars every other week with moderated panels, short presentations, and virtual networking opportunities, as well as an online adaptation of CRISPRcon’s popular Ideas Marketplace to conclude the Thursday sessions.
The 10 sessions are free with registration and will examine the following five themes.
September 1 & 3: Science and Societal Narratives: Recorded Sessions Linked in Agenda Below
September 15 & 17: Race and Health Equity: Recorded Sessions Linked in Agenda Below
Sept. 29 & Oct. 1: Hope and Hype: Recorded Sessions Linked in Agenda Below
October 13 & 15: Equity, Environment & Agriculture: Recorded Sessions Linked in Agenda Below
October 27 & 29: Priority and Agenda Setting: Recorded Sessions Linked in Agenda Below
The full agenda of the series is available below.
Science and Societal Narratives Narratives on science and society are shaped by the values and views of those that tell them. Within both CRISPRcon and societal dialogue on gene editing at large, how issues are framed and whose stories and perspectives are included in the discussion impact our collective understanding of what is at stake and how to govern emerging technologies. In its first week, CRISPRcon 2020 Virtual will explore the shaping of societal narratives in two ways: first, through discussion of what stories are told by journalists and second by focusing on Indigenous perspectives that have been historically marginalized within discussions and decisions on genetics and society.
11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT Gene editing and journalism: What story? Whose story? And why? (in partnership with the Innovative Genomics Institute) News coverage and stories highlighted by journalists in a variety of forms are shaping society’s values and views on gene editing. This session will explore the choices made around what stories are told, whose stories to tell, and how they are framed within and shape the overall societal dialogue on science and technology.
3:00 - 4:30 pm EDT Indigenous perspectives on gene editing in health and agriculture (in partnership with the Native BioData Consortium) Indigenous perspectives on genomic research and gene editing encompass a range of considerations of potential risks and benefits in applications of health, agriculture, and the environment. Of particular concern are sovereignty, control, access, and benefit sharing with respect to traditional knowledge, Indigenous data, and biological and cultural resources. This session will explore Indigenous viewpoints from a variety of geographies, considering current concerns and envisioning opportunities for more equitable Indigenous futures.
4:45 - 5:15 pm EDT Ideas Marketplace: breakout discussions on Science and Societal Narratives Immediately following the panel discussion, we will hold an Ideas Marketplace, where volunteer hosts will lead other CRISPRcon participants in informal video breakout discussions on a topic of the host’s choice.
Race and Health Equity (in partnership with Howard University) In early June, almost 1,300 epidemiologists signed onto an open letter supporting protests across the country, describing white supremacy as a “lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.” The twin crises of 2020 – one 400 years in the making and the second beginning last year in Wuhan, China – make clear the relationship between racism and public health. This week’s sessions tackle race and health equity, exploring the relationship among race, gene editing, and COVID-19 and opportunities to responsibly innovate with the meaningful inclusion of Black voices in science, technology, and healthcare.
11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT Race, gene editing, and COVID-19: How far does CRISPR get us toward health equity? The COVID-19 crisis is affecting everyone, but in the United States, Black communities are contracting COVID-19 and dying at higher rates because of race-based inequities that persist in American society. In parallel, scientists are using CRISPR and other gene editing tools to develop COVID-19 vaccines and to create cures for other diseases that disproportionately impact Black communities. How might gene editing-focused approaches exacerbate and/or address racial health disparities, the various factors from which they arise, and the diseases in which they manifest? How far will gene editing really get us toward health equity?
11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT Responsible innovation, gene editing, and race: Amplifying Black perspectives in pursuit of improved health outcomes For various reasons, many Americans don’t trust scientific guidance or information. As we are witnessing with COVID-19, in a public health crisis, it is easy for misinformation, miscommunication, fear, and confusion to take root, especially without a baseline of “trust” or understanding among the scientific community, government institutions, technology companies, and the general public. What does COVID-19 reveal about the relationship between these institutions and the public – especially Black Americans? Are there models for innovating in responsible ways, using gene editing or other technologies, that better incorporate the voices of Black Americans?
12:45 - 1:15 pm EDT Ideas Marketplace: breakout discussions on Race and Health Equity Immediately following the panel discussion, we will hold an Ideas Marketplace, where volunteer hosts will lead other CRISPRcon participants in informal video breakout discussions on a topic of the host’s choice.
Hope and Hype In the less-than-a-decade since the discovery of CRISPR’s potential applications for gene editing in humans, animals, and plants, there has been much speculation on its possible harms and/or benefits as well as on how technology development and governance in one geography or sector might affect the global trajectory of gene editing as a whole. This week, CRISPRcon 2020 Virtual will explore hope and hype. What can be learned from missteps, slowdowns, and breakthroughs in different sectors and geographies? In the agricultural sector, what gene-edited products have come to market or are likely to arrive soon, how have societal benefits been prioritized (if at all) within research, and how can benefits be assessed? In the realm of global leadership and coordination across sectors of agriculture and health, how is gene editing research and governance progressing in China, and how do these trends affect research and governance in the rest of the world?
9:00 am - 10:30 am EDT Spotlight on gene editing in China: Scientific progress, governance, and implications for global trends China is home to nearly one-fifth of the world’s population and is a global leader on research and development of new technologies, including gene editing. This webinar will look beyond the headline-grabbing case of He Jiankui and explore China’s priorities for gene-editing applications in health and agriculture. What are Chinese scientists, biotech companies, and other institutions developing, how is China approaching governance of gene editing, and how do these approaches and outputs influence the progress and perception of the rest of the world?
10:30 - 11:15 am Ideas Marketplace: breakout discussions on Hope and Hype Immediately following the panel discussion, we will hold an Ideas Marketplace, where volunteer hosts will lead other CRISPRcon participants in informal video breakout discussions on a topic of the host’s choice.
11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT Peering into the ag pipeline: What gene-edited products are coming soon, and how should potential societal benefits be prioritized and assessed? Daily headlines share news of scientists using gene editing to research and develop agricultural products targeted at a range of applications including climate adaptation and mitigation, crop productivity, nutrition enhancement, disease resistance, animal welfare, and more. But we’ve heard promises of societal benefit from biotechnology in the past, and the anticipated benefits have not always been realized and/or readily apparent to society. What has gene editing delivered thus far in the agriculture sector and what might be coming soon? What can we learn from the past regarding the role of biotechnology in addressing pressing agricultural challenges? What, if anything, is different now with gene editing in terms of the expectations we should hold – beyond hope and hype – for how societal benefits will be prioritized, assessed and delivered?
12:45 - 1:15 pm EDT Ideas Marketplace: breakout discussions on Hope and Hype Immediately following the panel discussion, we will hold an Ideas Marketplace, where volunteer hosts will lead other CRISPRcon participants in informal video breakout discussions on a topic of the host’s choice.
Equity, Environment & Agriculture (in partnership with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University) Genome editing has been criticized by some as a product of the scientific, political and social approaches to ecological and agricultural systems that contribute to rather than curb social inequities. It has been touted by others as a breakthrough tool for addressing equity issues in public health, agriculture, food and conservation, including those related to climate change. This week, CRISPRcon will explore how social equity factors into non-human gene editing, first exploring how risks are defined and governed in food systems and then exploring potential risks and benefits for climate justice.
10:30 am - 12:00 pm EDT Risk governance in gene editing and food: Intersections of safety and equity Societal concerns regarding gene-edited food and agriculture products are wide-ranging, encompassing issues such as human safety, ecological impact, animal welfare, socioeconomic implications for agricultural communities, distribution of societal impacts and benefits, and control, access, voice, choice, and sovereignty within food systems. The assessment and management of various potential risks is distributed among regulators, researchers and developers, and other societal actors; questions of who defines what risks and concerns are managed, who manages them, and to what standard represent equity and political concerns in the risk governance process. This panel will consider the scope and governance of different categories of risk in various geographies, including how risk is currently addressed and how it might alternatively be addressed through regulatory and other processes.
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT Gene editing and climate justice: Adaptation, mitigation, and conservation strategies in a changing world Societal impacts of climate change will not be distributed equally among geographies and populations. Proponents of gene editing forecast conservation applications whereby gene editing might aid in climate change adaptation (and, sometimes, mitigation) for vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Yet these technological solutions may create their own inequities and risks, both ecological and social. This session will explore what is at stake -- including both risks and benefits -- in the use of gene editing to address climate justice/equity issues.
4:45 - 5:15 pm EDT Ideas Marketplace: breakout discussions on Equity, Environment, and Agriculture Immediately following the panel discussion, we will hold an Ideas Marketplace, where volunteer hosts will lead other CRISPRcon participants in informal video breakout discussions on a topic of the host’s choice.
Priority and Agenda Setting In its final week, CRISPRcon 2020 Virtual will explore priority setting in gene editing and the factors that shape research and development. What are the values and criteria that are being used to shape research and funding decisions for gene editing in health, agriculture and beyond? How are tradeoffs evaluated when determining which projects get prioritized, which applications are pursued, and which potential risks and benefits are created, for whom?
11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT Gene editing in public health and health autonomy (in partnership with the Innovative Genomics Institute) The values of improving public health and maximizing health autonomy can often be at odds, for example as a result of limited resources for research, disparities in prioritization of and access to care, and/or tensions between strategies requiring individuals to opt into vs. opt out of therapies or preventative measures. Gene editing offers the promise of therapies and preventative approaches to address life threatening diseases ranging from public health challenges like COVID-19 and malaria to rare diseases like sickle cell anemia and Huntington’s disease. What values are informing the choices of which diseases should be addressed, who bears the risks, and who stands to benefit? This session will explore the complexities and tradeoffs of gene editing-focused health approaches for treatment vs. prevention as well as the scale and significance of impact for individuals vs. society at large.
11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT The role of funders and philanthropists in setting the gene editing agenda Investment in gene editing technologies plays a significant role in the technology’s evolution and its application to issues in health, agriculture, conservation and more. This panel will explore current funding pathways and priorities for applications of gene editing – who is creating them and what values are being used to evaluate their application and impact? How are societal risks, benefits, and perspectives incorporated into the investment decisions that are shaping the future of gene editing?
12:45 - 1:15 pm EDT Ideas Marketplace: breakout discussions on Priority and Agenda Setting Immediately following the panel discussion, we will hold an Ideas Marketplace, where volunteer hosts will lead other CRISPRcon participants in informal video breakout discussions on a topic of the host’s choice.
This series of webinars and interactive discussions is being developed by the Keystone Policy Center in partnership with the following organizations on specific sessions as indicated in the agenda: Howard University, the Innovative Genomics Institute, the Native BioData Consortium, and North Carolina State University Genetic Engineering and Society Center.
Session hosts are in-kind partners to CRISPRcon and do not receive funding from CRISPRcon nor CRISPRcon sponsors for their work in this event.
CRISPRcon 2020 Virtual programming is supported by Corteva Agriscience and United Soybean Board. Additional support for the October 1 session comes from Illinois Soybean Association. Additional support for the September 29 and October 14 sessions comes from Bayer. CRISPRcon is managed by Keystone Policy Center under a statement of independence and welcomes sponsorship from organizations, businesses, foundations, universities, NGOs, and others interested in supporting the CRISPRcon mission to create a unique forum of diverse perspectives on gene editing across a variety of applications. Learn more at https://crisprcon.org/about/.
To view sponsors for our past events click here for CRISPRcon 2017, CRISPRcon 2018, CRISPRcon 2019 and CRISPRcon Midwest. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact: email@example.com
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CRISPRcon is a program of the Keystone Policy Center. Keystone is a nationally recognized nonprofit working to bring diverse perspectives to bear in helping leaders, stakeholders, and communities reach common higher ground on society’s most challenging issues. Keystone manages overall development of CRISPRcon programming, planning, and fundraising. Keystone operates under a statement of independence to serve all of its project participants and does not take a position of advocacy on any specific or general use of CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies.
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