ASU experts grapple with gene-based medicine questions on PBS

Sooner than we think, we will have access to our own genetic codes. Are we ready to join the DNA generation?

Two ASU researchers, Gary Marchant and George Poste, will tackle legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding personalized medicine on “Arizona Horizon” at 5:30 p.m., March 28, on Eight, Arizona PBS. That same evening, Eight will premiere the new NOVA program “Cracking Your Genetic Code” at 8 p.m.

Marchant is a geneticist, law professor and leading scholar on issues of law and policy and their intersection with science and technological innovations. Named a 2011 ASU Regents’ Professor, he teaches at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and is faculty director of its Center for Law, Science & Innovation (LSI). Marchant and Rachel Lindor, a research director of LSI, recently co-authored “The Doctor Will See Your Genome Now: Will whole-genome sequencing create a new liability tsunami for physicians?” for Slate.

At NOVA’s request, Marchant and Lindor also wrote an essay on the intersection of personalized medicine and law, titled “Top Ten Policy, Ethical and Legal Issues with Genetic Information,” and can be accessed on the PBS show’s blog Inside NOVA.

Poste is chief scientist and co-director of ASU’s Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative (CASI) and Del E. Webb Professor of Health Innovation. From 2003 to 2009, he directed and built the Biodesign Institute at ASU. Poste serves on the board of directors for Monsanto, Exelixis and Caris Life Sciences. He formerly was chief science and technology officer and president, R&D, of SmithKline Beecham and led teams that successfully developed 31 new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. He also is the recipient of major academic and industry honors.

As the NOVA episode reveals, access to our personal genetic codes positions us at the brink of a medical revolution. The public television production profiles cancer patients returned to robust health and a cystic fibrosis sufferer breathing easily because scientists could pinpoint and neutralize genetic abnormalities underlying their conditions. The hour-long show also raises a range of ethical questions.

On “Arizona Horizon,” ASU’s Marchant and Poste will address the impact of new genetic technologies and ethical and technical challenges posed by this new medical reality. Will it help or hurt us to be warned we are likely to incur a serious disease? What if such information falls into the hands of insurance companies, employers, prospective mates? Should parents be allowed to select embryos having specific traits? Will doctors become liable for what they didn’t know about a patient’s whole-genome sequence?

Joining them on “Arizona Horizon” will be Stephanie Buchholtz, director of the Office of Research Compliance & Quality Management at The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). Buchholtz is responsible for ensuring that all TGen research activities are compliant with federal, state and local regulations. A doctorate student in ASU’s Biology and Society program – in the School of Life Sciences, within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – her research interests include the ethical, legal and social implications regarding the disclosure of research results to study participants.