Less than a week after President Barack Obama recognized Pittsburgh as a hotbed of innovation and research excellence at the White House Frontiers conference, the University of Pittsburgh will celebrate its annual showcase of the region’s academic and research strengths in science, engineering, medicine and computation during “Science 2016—Game Changers,” which will be held Oct. 19 to 21 at Alumni Hall and the adjacent Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center in Oakland.
Renowned biochemist and co-discoverer of the CRISPR-Cas9 system that allows rapid and accurate genome engineering in plant and animal species, Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences, professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, will receive the 2016 Dickson Prize in Medicine. Her Dickson Prize Lecture, titled “CRISPR Systems and the Future of Genome Engineering,” will be delivered at 11 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 20.
Dr. Doudna, together with microbiologist Emmannuelle Charpentier, Ph.D., discovered that CRISPR-Cas9, a bacterial defense system against viruses that “remembers” viral DNA signatures by incorporating a segment of the viral DNA into the bacterial genome, had enormous potential when applied to genome editing.
Drs. Doudna and Charpentier realized this system presented an unprecedentedly simple and efficient way to add or delete DNA segments in the genome. Using the technique, researchers have corrected genetic defects in animals and altered DNA sequences in stem cells.
However, such technology has opened a gateway to genetic modification of humans—ushering in significant ethical considerations. Dr. Doudna has advocated for a moratorium on attempts to alter the human germline for clinical purposes, though she believes basic research should continue.
Other renowned scientists also will deliver plenary lectures at Science 2016:
Klaus Hofmann Lecture, 4 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20
“Circuits and Circuit Disorders: Approaches to Neuromodulation,” presented by Mahlon DeLong, M.D., William Patterson Timmie Professor of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. DeLong’s research has revolutionized the understanding and treatment of Parkinson’s disease by identifying the brain circuits that underlie Parkinson’s symptoms and targeting them to alleviate disease symptoms.
Provost Lecture, 11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 21
“Science and Science-Related Policy at Science Magazine,” presented by Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning, Pitt Schools of the Health Sciences, and editor-in-chief, Science magazine. Dr. Berg was named editor-in-chief of Science magazine and the Science family of journals in July 2016. Dr. Berg continues to advance the University’s position as a biomedical research leader.
Mellon Lecture, 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21
“Genome Regulation by Long Noncoding RNAs,” presented by Howard Y. Chang, M.D., Ph.D., professor of dermatology, Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Chang’s research explores the shared genetic blueprint that gives rise to the thousands of cell types within the human body. His work has led to a series of discoveries that revealed the critical role of long noncoding RNAs in biological regulation and their ability to control gene regulation throughout the genome.
Science 2016’s Science as Art exhibition recognizes the artistic element hidden within scientific pursuits to create a unique and thought-provoking display. This year’s exhibit highlights the field of microscopy and the Nobel Prize-winning contributions it has made to science.
Spotlight sessions this year include presentations on “Genome Editing and Engineering,” “Violence and Terrorism–Living in an Unsettled World,” “Addressing Pennsylvania’s Opioid Epidemic,” and “You’re Surrounded–Your Microbiome and You.”
Science 2016 also includes presentations by some of Pittsburgh’s leading researchers, an innovation showcase of Pitt-developed technologies available for licensing, exhibits, poster sessions and a career development workshop, all of which are intended to demonstrate that research can be a catalyst for regional economic development; foster collaboration among academic and industrial scientists; and promote the idea to the public that science can be interesting, exciting and fun.
The event is free and open to the public. Registration is available on site.