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TED-Style Talks


Steve Cole - Social Regulation of Human Gene Expression
Relationships between genes and social behavior have historically been viewed as a one-way street, with genes in control. However, recent research has discovered broad alterations in the expression of human genes as a function of differing socio-environmental conditions. Dr. Cole will summarize the developing field of human social genomics and its efforts to identify the types of genes subject to social regulation, the biological signaling pathways mediating those effects, and the genetic polymorphisms that modify their impact. These findings provide a concrete molecular perspective on the pathways through which extra-organismic social processes interact with individual genomes to shape development, health, and behavioral trajectories.

Yaniv Ehrlich - The Future of Consumer Genomics
Consumer genomics is transforming human genetics. Nearly 30 million individuals have purchased a consumer genomic test, most of which reside in the US. With their affordable prices, these tests democratize access to genetic information, and allow participants to expose their past and reveal predisposition for various conditions, in the comfort of their own home. This model has led to unexpected societal aspects, from the realization that family secrets can no longer kept secret, via using these databases to capture serial killers, to the debate about the role clinicians should have in contextualizing the results to participants. In this talk, I will present the development and challenges of consumer genomics, its interface with mainstream clinical genetics, and survey the potential horizon of these tests.

Steven Benner - Re-synthesizing Biology
Professionals, students, and laypeople alike all know of the DNA double helix, taught in middle school as the ideal way of storing and transmitting information needed for biology. In fact, DNA is both constrained and defective for these roles. Dr. Benner will summarize the field of synthetic biology where new and improved versions of DNA are created and used to build new platforms to support Darwinian evolution. Research programs within this field have created new semi-synthetic life forms as well as providing new insight on how life on Earth arose. Further, synthetic genetics supports new clinical tools to detect infecting pathogens, follow genetic progression in the immune system, and deliver new therapeutic agents.


  • Christopher M. Cunniff, MD, FACMG.

    Dr. Cunniff is a Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Medical Genetics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. He has served previously on the Board of Directors of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and the American Board of Medical Genetics. He was also elected President of the American Board of Medical Genetics and as Chairperson of the Committee on Genetics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is an active clinician and researcher, with special experience in neuromuscular disorders, disorders of sexual development, fetal alcohol syndrome, autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability.

  • Steve Cole, PhD.

    UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

  • Steven Benner, PhD.

    Steven Benner is a Distinguished Fellow at the Westheimer Institute or Science and Technology within the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, which he founded after serving on the faculty at the University of Florida, the ETH Zurich, and Harvard. His research has initiated several fields, including synthetic biology, paleogenetics, and evolutionary bioinformatics, for which his laboratory was the first to redesign DNA to expand DNA genetic alphabets, resurrect genes and proteins from extinct organisms, organize whole genome databases by their evolutionary history, predict how proteins fold, and apply next-generation DNA to medicine. In particular, his artificial DNA supports highly multiplexed and ultraclean PCR amplification of human genetic targets, with commercial applications in tools to detect inherited genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, ACGM panel targets, and exome panels, all with little target preferences and few dropouts His expanded DNA alphabets have also been used in diagnostics products that quantitate viral loads of HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses, as well as panels of respiratory diseases and arboviruses, many of which can be used in the field and at bedsides. Other nucleic acid innovations today support next generation DNA sequencing and next generation enzyme-based DNA synthesis. His most recent book is: "Life, the Universe, and the Scientific Method."

  • Yaniv Erlich, PhD.

    Dr. Yaniv Erlich is the Chief Science Officer of and until June 2019 he was Associate Professor of Computer Science and Computational Biology at Columbia University (leave of absence). Prior to these positions, he was a Fellow at the Whitehead Institute, MIT. Dr. Erlich received his bachelor’s degree from Tel-Aviv University, Israel (2006) summa cum laude and a PhD from the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (2010). Dr. Erlich’s research interests are computational human genetics. Dr. Erlich is a TEDMED speaker (2018), the recipient of DARPA’s Young Faculty Award (2017), the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award (2013), Harold M. Weintraub award (2010), the IEEE/ACM-CS HPC award (2008), and he was selected as one of 2010 Tomorrow’s PIs team of Genome Technology.

March 19, 2020
Thu 9:00 AM CDT

Duration 1H 0M

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