Imagine being able to look into a crystal ball to see what the new millennium holds for science and medicine. Will gene therapy revolutionize the way physicians treat disease? Will police officers arrive at crime scenes sporting handheld DNA sequencers? Will xenotransplantation, cloning and tissue engineering offer solutions to today's shortage of available organs?
The Whitehead Institute's fifth annual press seminar, "Beyond the Scientific Frontier," offered local and national reporters an opportunity to gaze into that crystal ball. Leading scientists shared their predictions at the May 10 event about the hottest trends at the frontier of biomedicine and separated myth from reality on cutting-edge topics such as DNA arrays, stem cells, forensics and cloning.
Speakers included George Daley of the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology; Jill Mesirov, associate director for informatics at the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research (CGR); Professors of Biology Richard Young, Paul Matsudaira and Rudolf Jaenisch (all of whom do research at Whitehead); Laurence Young, the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics; Robert Langer, the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering; Richard Mulligan of Children's Hospital; Valina Dawson of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Christiane Ferran of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
In a luncheon talk, Professor of Biology Eric Lander, director of the CGR, described the challenges of sequencing the human genome as well as the road ahead for the growing field of genomics. The day culminated with a tour of the sequencing center -- the largest publicly funded center in the world -- where reporters had the opportunity to see firsthand a biology lab of the 21st century.
Participants in the press seminar included reporters and editors from the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, the Los Angeles Times, Nova, Newsday and the Associated Press. The seminar serves a dual purpose for these journalists, providing them with a better and more in-depth understanding of the future of biomedicine, and giving them new ideas and resources for their stories.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 31, 2000.