News Releases

Center for biological futures to address challenges posed by explosion of biological knowledge in 21st century

SEATTLE — Oct. 13, 2011 — Enormous growth in biological knowledge during the past 100 years or so – and increasing worldwide use of that information to manipulate and build living systems – pose unique opportunities and challenges for the scientific community and humanity at large. These include potential risks associated with expanded public access to engineered biological organisms, responses to infectious disease, the impact of human manipulation of the biosphere for food and fuel, and implications of advances in understanding the human genome sequence and reproductive technology.

To help foster more sophisticated thinking about such big-picture issues, Roger Brent, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has established an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scientists called the Center for Biological Futures. The initiative is supported via primary funding from the Innovation fund of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Brent, a member of the Basic Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center, leads the CBF. Alison Wylie, a professor of philosophy and anthropology, leads work at the University of Washington via a vigorous network of faculty research activities in the humanities and social sciences, hosted by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, called “Biological Futures in a Globalized World.”

“Continued advances in biological research in the 20th century and the start of the 21st are having a global impact on our conceptions of human identity and on human relationships with the rest of the living world,” Brent said. “The mission of the Center for Biological Futures is to foster better thinking about the present and future impacts of these continuing developments on human events.”

During the next two years, the CBF will conduct a number of activities, including:

  • A public lecture series
  • Faculty research consortia and workshops
  • Graduate seminars on biological futures topics

At the Hutchinson Center and the UW, the CBF also will spearhead a research ethics and integrity initiative to develop an integrated education and training program for biological and non-medical scientists that cultivates an appreciation of the human dimensions and impacts of their work.

“Our goals are to establish an interdisciplinary network of scholars and scientists who have the expertise to enhance our understanding of complex issues surrounding biological futures, and to lay the foundations for a sustained program of substantial research and education that puts us in a position to address them effectively,” Wylie said.

MEDIA CONTACT
Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(206) 667-5095
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.