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Ancient DNA and our Future: Techno-Scientific and Ethical Reflections

Januar 8, 2020@7:00 pm9:00 pm

Ancient DNA (Füsun Özer): Ancient DNA (aDNA) research focuses on the analyses of degraded DNA fragments extracted from archaeological remains such as bones, teeth and hair. These DNA molecules are sequenced to obtain individuals’ genomes, which are analysed for inferring kinship, demographic history, biological adaptations, and genetic diseases. The earliest aDNA studies mostly focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mainly due to technical limitations. However, mtDNA only provides information about the maternal history. Another drawback has been the risk of contamination which prevents distinguishing whether molecules derived from an archaeological sample are authentic or contamination from modern DNA. Recent developments in laboratory protocols and advanced computational approaches have accelerated aDNA studies by the beginning of 2010s. Although, aDNA is very promising in understanding history of human, past populations and human genome evolution, it may pose unintentional ethical issues. This presentation will provide an insight into the history of ancient DNA technology, ethics and future promises.
Füsun Özer is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Hacettepe University. She received her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Illinois, at Chicago in 2010. After completion of her degree, she started working as a lecturer in METU-Northern Cyprus Campus. In 2011, she joined the Department of Biology in METU, Ankara as a research scientist where she spearheaded the establishment of the first dedicated ancient DNA laboratory in Turkey. Dr Özer recently joined the Department of Anthropology at Hacettepe University where she also established the Hacettepe University Molecular Anthropology and Genomics Laboratory for ancient DNA studies.

Opportunities for STS: Translating Responsible Personalized Medicine (Robin Ann Downey): In this presentation, I explore how Science and Technology Studies (STS) researchers can make contributions to personalized medicine developments. Medical research and genomics have deep-rooted associations with ethical issues related to consent and privacy. In the early period of the Human Genome Project, studies focused on ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) were funded alongside discovery science. Later on, experiments in integrated research created opportunities for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary efforts. In addition to a range of other experts, STS researchers contributed to this work. As the promise of personalized medicine was touted, funders turned towards so-called translational efforts, which prioritize commercial and practical applications. Responsible Innovation (RI) offers another funding opportunity for STS contributions and it is also aligned with practical dimensions. RI efforts in personalized medicine may include collaborating with relevant stakeholders on projects related to the collection and management of big data, including users in design considerations, integrating privacy by design measures, incorporating qualitative information such as patient narratives in personalized medicine tools and creating opportunities for flexible decision making.
Robin Downey is a Science Technology and Society Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering at Bilkent University. Her work has mainly focused on technological controversies, including a cross-cultural analysis of media representations of cloning and an examination of how stakeholders helped to shape stem cell research developments in Canada. She was the Genomics and Society Advisor for Genome BC where she helped to build interdisciplinary research teams. In this context, she contributed to work on integrated research and developed an interest in personalized medicine. Responsible Innovation is her current research interest.


Januar 8, 2020
7:00 pm-9:00 pm