David Haussler on Dangers of Genomic Research
  David Haussler     Biography    
Recorded: 08 May 2012

Actually, I was extremely worried. I, I’ve been worried from day one about the, the designer baby issue. Not that we have the technology right now to alter genomes, but in the future we will have technology and so the question is now that humanity can read its own genetic heritage do we want to write on it, right? Do we want to alter it? And that’s a huge question. And of course I strongly separate the two questions of altering somatic genomes, of course we want to fix the genomes in our own somatic cells and we can do that with impunity because those aren’t passed on to the next generation. But if we start altering the DNA sequence that’s passed on to the next generation then we are taking on responsibility for the genomes of our progeny in a profound way that has never been possible before, in terms of any kind of natural selection, and so we should only do that with very serious consideration. And this is something that from the broad perspective of [unintelligible] is a major social issue that will surface in the next several decades. But I want to emphasize that it’s not here yet, we don’t have easy right capability for germ-line genomes, it does not exist. The technology does not exist, so it’s a moot point at this point. But it might not be moot, ten or twenty years from now.

David Haussler (born 1953) is an American bioinformatician known for his work leading the team that assembled the first human genome sequence in the race to complete the Human Genome Project and subsequently for comparative genome analysis that deepens understanding the molecular function and evolution of the genome. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, professor of biomolecular engineering and director of the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) on the UC Santa Cruz campus, and a consulting professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and UC San Francisco Biopharmaceutical Sciences Department.