Speaker: Dr Paul de Sousa, University of Edinburgh
Since the original discovery of the ability to induce an embryonic stem cell-like state from adult cells, there has been rapid progress in the means to make these cells and understanding of the underpinning biology. Funding agencies around the world have made significant investments in the creation and banking of these cells to underpin research into diseases and discovery of new medicines better targeted to address disease associated variations in patient responsiveness. The logical evolution of this and associated technologies is the development of a person-specific cell screening capacity which could be used to predict susceptibility to disease and environmental agents and pre-clinical assessment of adverse and desired patient responsiveness to existing and new drugs.
Given the speaker’s background, the discussion will start with a short introduction to the science on which pluripotent stem cell culture and induction technology is based, and the challenges which must be overcome to realise current and future aims. This will be followed by an attempt to frame the questions/issues that are raised by making a personalised stem cell based screening platform publicly available. What are the presumptions that underpin its utility? How could information generated from its use by applied to complement existing healthcare or develop new treatments? Who would have access to information generated from its use?
Who would own what? Given the interdisciplinary nature of these questions, the speaker’s aspiration is to then moderate an open discussion among the audience to explore the obvious and not so obvious opportunities and implications of this technology. Participants from all backgrounds (science, social science, ethics, divinity, philosophy, business, medicine, and engineering) are welcome.