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The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina today opened its 2017 Annual Assembly in Halle (Saale), with this year’s theme being “Genome Editing – Challenges for the Future”. The event sees distinguished international scientists come together to address new molecular biological methods that enable targeted genetic interventions. At the heart of the lectures and discussions are the ethical, legal and technological questions surrounding genome editing. Participants will also discuss the use of genome editing techniques in plants and animals and in the context of human therapies.
In lectures and discussions, more than 20 outstanding international researchers will examine, together with some 400 members and guests, the opportunities and risks of genome editing. The Munich-based biochemist Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker will introduce participants to this year’s theme in his keynote lecture, “Evolution – natural or man-made?”. This is followed by a programme that explores topics such as the “Basics of programmable gene scissors”, “Would there be a market for genetically modified food in Germany?” and the “Pros and cons of genome editing in human embryos”. The panel discussion addresses the pros and cons of germline gene therapy, while genome editing from a legal perspective is addressed in the context of the German Embryo Protection Act.
In the Leopoldina Lecture, which takes place on Friday at 8:15 p.m., Axel Meyer will explain “How genes determine our lives, and why women and men are different”. The evolutionary biologist seeks to outline what is known about the genetic differences between men and women while also stimulating dialogue between the natural and cultural sciences.
The day before the Annual Assembly opened, the Leopoldina Senate elected Regina Riphahn as Vice-President of the Leopoldina. The economist, a member of the Leopoldina since 2007, is Professor of Statistics and Empirical Economic Research at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. She succeeds the lifespan psychologist and aging researcher Ursula Staudinger, who had served as Vice-President of the Leopoldina since 2007. The mechanical engineer Sigmar Wittig was re-elected for his second term as the secretary of class I Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Engineering.