Emory Report
September 27, 2004
Volume 57, Number 6


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September 27, 2004
Emory lectures highlight Fernbank genomics exhibit

BY michael terrazas

Since “The Genomics Revolution” opened in June at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Emory has lent its name and resources as the major sponsoring partner of the touring exhibition, a comprehensive presentation that examines genetic research from a variety of perspectives: medical, technological, cultural and ethical.

Beginning this month, Emory’s involvement will become even more visible as several professors, researchers and administrators deliver lectures at Fernbank related to the exhibit and host roundtable discussions in the museum’s café. The lectures began on Sept. 14, when Rob DeSalle, molecular biologist and exhibition curator from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, gave an address, “Welcome to the Genome.”

The Tuesday-evening lectures, all of which will be held at 7 p.m. in the Fernbank auditorium, are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. The remaining slate includes:

The Genomic Revolution: Understanding the Basics, by Neil Lamb, assistant professor of human genetics and director of the Center for Medical Genomics (see First Person, page 2). Sept. 28.
Who Are You? Genes and Identity, by Arri Eisen, senior lecturer in biology and director of the Program in Science and Society. Oct. 19.
The Genomic Opportunity: Transforming Health and Healing, by Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs. Oct. 26.
Genomic Healing for Cancer, by Jonathan Simons, director of the Winship Cancer Institute. Nov. 30.

Also upcoming are a pair of evening café discussions, likewise held on Tuesday nights, at which attendees are encouraged to discuss issues with Emory scientists and ethicists while sipping coffee or snacking on dessert. Tickets are $10 for Fernbank members, $15 for nonmembers. The discussions are titled:

Is It Natural? Humans and Plants as Genetically Modified Organisms, featuring Eisen and Kirk Ziegler, professor of microbiology and immunology. Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Babies by Design: The Ethics of Genetics Enhancement, featuring Paul Fernhoff, associate professor of pediatrics; and Kathy Kinlaw, associate director of the Center for Ethics. Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.

“We’re going to be looking at a variety of questions,” Kinlaw said, “particularly related to whether there’s an important distinction to be made between genetic enhancements that help individuals deal with disease—therapeutic interventions to decrease the expression of a disease—versus enhancements that are often seen by people as more elective, like choosing the color of eyes or hair, or increasing one’s height.

“We’ll also be looking at the motivations of parents, and whether that makes a difference in the ethical choices that are made,” she continued.

Not only are the roundtables but the exhibit itself is interactive, as computer kiosks quiz visitors on their knowledge of genetics, and there is even a hands-on laboratory in which people can conduct genetic experiments of their own.“The Genomic Revolution” runs through Jan. 2, 2005. To make reservations for the lectures or café discussions, call 404-929-6400. Emory employees and students receive $2 off admission to the exhibit (normally $12 for adults) and $4 off combination museum/IMAX theater admission. For information about Fernbank, call 404-929-6300 or visit www.fernbank.edu/museum.