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The global debate over gene editing has a local twist. Two researchers discuss its implications for society on Feb. 18.

COURTESY PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF OREGON WAYNE MORSE CENTER FOR LAW AND POLITICS - Francoise Baylis, a Canadian bioethicist, will discuss the implications for human society of gene editing on Thursday.On Thursday, Feb. 18, two health leaders will discuss how society could change due to gene editing, a field in which Portland-area researchers have broken important ground.

The virtual discussion, hosted by the City Club of Portland, runs from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday. Two speakers will bring different histories and perspectives to the discussion.

Françoise Baylis, a Canadian bioethicist and research professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, has written a book about the ethical dilemmas posed by human genome editing and co-authored research papers highlighting recent developments in the debate.COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Larry Wallack, an emeritus professor of public health at Oregon Health & Sciences Unversity, has researched equity and epigenetics.

Larry Wallack, meanwhile, is a former dean of the Portland State University College of Urban & Public Affairs who has also served as a professor of public health for PSU and for Oregon Health & Sciences University. He's published research examining equity and the developmental origins of disease.

The talk will focus on the relatively new technology called CRISPR, which allows editing of the human genome to eliminate chronic or hereditary diseases. The technology has raised concerns about human cloning and "designer babies" for whom characteristics like hair and skin color can be chosen.

Called "State of Being: The Promise and Peril of Emerging Genetic Technologies,"

the City Club discussion will touch upon "What if changes intended for the good turn out to have unforeseen negative effects? What if the divide between the haves and have-nots widens as a result? Who decides whether we genetically modify human beings and, if so, how?"

While the debate is global, the discussion could have a local feel to it. OHSU is home to one of the leaders in CRISPR technology, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a Uighur from Kazakhstan who emigrated to the United States in 1995.

Mitalipov, who heads the OHSU Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, has crusaded for the use of CRISPR to prevent inherited diseases and published research finding no harm with its use on monkeys.

Baylis is the 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair for the University of Oregon Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

To obtain a link to the discussion, click here.

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