CSTPR Noontime Seminar
Emerging Biotechnologies and Public Engagement: Reflections on the NASEM Report on Gene Drives
by Jason Delborne
Abstract: In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report entitled, Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values. The report was motivated by the rapid pace of investigation made possible by CRISPR-based gene drives; laboratory proofs of concept in fruit flies, yeast, and mosquitoes; as well as the ambitious agenda under consideration for the possible deployment of gene drives. Whether imagined as a tool to end malaria, a new mechanism to control agricultural pests, or a means to eradicate invasive species, gene drives represent an emerging biotechnology that would persist and spread in the environment in ways that traditional GMOs have not. Such characteristics challenge notions of scientific responsibility, regulatory oversight, the management of risk, and the incorporation of public values in governance. Jason Delborne, Associate Professor of Science, Policy, and Society at North Carolina State University, served on the committee that authored the report and specializes in conceptualizing and conducting public engagement in science and technology. His talk will reflect on the NASEM report’s findings, with particular focus on its recommendations for sustained community, stakeholder, and public engagement.
Biography: Jason Delborne is Associate Professor of Science, Policy, and Society at North Carolina State University. Hired in 2013 in the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program to join the Genetic Engineering and Society cluster, his tenure home is in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources in the College of Natural Resources. Dr. Delborne’s research, which draws on the interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), explores highly politicized scientific controversies with particular attention to interactions among policymakers, scientists, and the public. Currently, he leads a collaborative NSF grant to study the genetically modified American chestnut tree, designed to restore the functionally extinct species, and potentially the first GMO to be released that is intended to persist and spread in the environment. Dr. Delborne received an A.B. in Human Biology from Stanford University in 1993 and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he joined the faculty at Colorado School of Mines in 2008 in the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies, which provided many opportunities to interact with CSTPR community of faculty and students.