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Designer Babies or the Future of Medicine

Guest Speaker: Dr. Mike Kennedy

Dr. Mike Kennedy, Director of Science in Society and Research Professor in Neurobiology at Northwestern University, will speak on the topic, Designer Babies or the Future of Medicine: Ethical Implications or Modern Genetic Technology.  Advances in assisted reproductive technology over the last 20 years have generated an entirely new set of ethical issues related to conceiving a child.  No longer is nature fully in charge.  Using in vitro fertilization and modern genetic technology, parents are now able to conceive a child free from the devastating impact of genetic disease.  This same approach, however, allows parents to potentially choose their child's gender.  It allows parents to conceive genetically compatible children to serve as tissue donors for ailing siblings.  Research using powerful gene-editing technology may reveal new treatments for infertility, but can also be used to insert novel genes into human embryos.  Dr. Kennedy's talk will explore this new age of modern reproductive technology and the ethical dilemmas it has created.

Michael Kennedy has been involved in science education and outreach for more than a decade. He co-developed one of Northwestern University's first annual public education events, the Science Outreach Series, geared towards informing citizens of developments in the life sciences.  This annual event, held from 2001-2007, brought internationally prominent speakers to Northwestern’s campus to lecture on topics including the Human Genome Project, stem cell biology, human cloning, genetically modified foods, global warming, and neuroimaging.  In 2008, Dr. Kennedy co-founded Science Club, a mentor-based afterschool science initiative, developed in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and teachers in Chicago Public Schools. The success and growth of Science Club led to the establishment of a new research center for science education and public engagement at Northwestern under the Science in Society name, of which Kennedy serves as founding director.  Dr. Kennedy’s previous positions at Northwestern include Associate Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, Director of Education and Outreach for the Center for Genetic Medicine, and most recently, Chief of Staff for the Feinberg School of Medicine.  He has a B.S. in chemistry from St. John’s University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine.