International Mammalian Genome Society

17th International Mouse Genome Conference

9-12 November 2003, Braunschweig, Germany


PLENARY PRESENTATION

SUNDAY 9 NOVEMBER
18:00 – 19:00 HRS

VERNE CHAPMAN MEMORIAL LECTURE

THE MAMMALIAN GENETICS REVOLUTION: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW

Ken Paigen
The Jackson Laboratory

We are in the early stages of a major scientific revolution in which mammalian genetics promises to dramatically advance our understanding of mammalian physiological and mental processes, with large implications for our own species. These are likely to affect the management of health and disease and even social organization. As participants in this revolution, indeed the drivers of it, we can attempt to understand its relation to other scientific revolutions for the lessons this may teach us.

Previous revolutions have stemmed from the introduction of either new technologies that drastically altered science's ability to see and/or measure the world around us (the microscope, telescope, thermometer…) or new conceptual frameworks for thinking about the world (evolution, Mendelism, the double helix…). These breakthrough events are typically followed by an exploitation period that, in turn, is usually followed by a relatively quiescent period when advance is slow until the next breakthrough occurs.

Our revolution differs from these in several regards. It is not the result of any single technical or conceptual breakthrough, but rather the accumulation of multiple breakthroughs, which gives it an unusual robustness, creating something of a positive feed-back loop generating further technical and conceptual breakthroughs. Even if no further breakthroughs occur, it will be many years before we exhaust the potential of what is already possible. And our revolution promises to alter basic concepts of what it means to be human.

I will try to describe the present structure of our revolution in terms of the advances that made it possible and then raise some of the questions and challenges I think we face.


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