Dr. Lea Witkowsky
Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI)
Eight short years ago, CRISPR-Cas9 made its debut as a tool to rewrite the genetic code of life. Already, the ability to edit DNA sequences has changed the way we conduct research, enabling experiments and questions that were unthinkable just years prior. What’s more, genome editing has begun to move from the lab to the real world. The first clinical trials using CRISPR to treat disease are underway in the U.S., and a growing list of genome-edited crops have been through regulatory confirmation with the USDA. With this genome editing revolution comes questions about its place in society. Applications with some of the biggest ethical and regulatory challenges are no longer hypothetical – in November 2018, a Chinese scientist announced the births of the first genome-edited human babies, prompting widespread condemnation and renewed efforts to establish international regulations. CRISPR expert and policy analyst, Dr. Lea Witkowsky, will review how genome editing works, and dive into some of the most controversial applications of genome editing, focusing on the ethical, regulatory, and societal dilemmas they raise.
Dr. Lea Witkowsky is a Policy Analyst at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI), a non-profit research partnership between UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, dedicated to improving and applying genome engineering to solve major world problems. Lea has a B.A. in Chemistry from Willamette University and received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 2016, where she studied mechanisms of gene regulation and CRISPR-based gene editing in human cells. She joined the IGI in 2017 to work on science policy and help shape the IGI’s engagement activities. Lea runs an ethics and regulation discussion group that brings together life scientists, social scientists, lawyers, and ethicists. She aims to inspire and facilitate scientifically informed ethical discussions about genome editing through communications with regulators and policymakers and by convening international events that feature diverse perspectives.
Meeting Presentation (link coming soon)