From September 27 to October 1, 2023, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology and CSHL Meetings & Courses, convened a major international meeting, “Recombinant DNA: Fifty Years of Discovery and Debates.” Recombinant DNA (rDNA) is produced when genetic material from one organism is transferred to another one, such as a bacterium or yeast. This technique spurred wide debate over genetic modification even as it made possible the biotechnology revolution of the late twentieth century.
During the first three days of the meeting, we heard talks by notable participants in the first half century of rDNA and biotechnology, including researchers, clinicians, regulators, and investors. The speakers included five Nobel Laureates, young investigators at the cutting edge of the field, and scientist-administrators who have directed institutions and projects such as NIH, the Human Genome Project, and the FDA. Over the final day, we heard from an equally international group of historians and archivists who have devoted their careers to documenting and analyzing the recombinant revolution.
The day after the meeting ended, we awoke to the wonderful news that yet another of the speakers at this meeting has become a Nobel Laureate. Congratulations to Katalin Karikó, who was honored by the Nobel committee for the very work she discussed this weekend, developing mRNA-based methods for delivering vaccines and therapies.
As with all the history of science meetings organized by the CSHL Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology, videos of the talks from “Recombinant DNA: Fifty Years of Discovery and Debates” will be made available to the public on the center’s website.
Richard Mulligan, Sana Biotechnology
Mila Pollock, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Shirley Tilghman, Princeton University
- The Discovery of Recombinant DNA
- From Genes to the Genome – Time Flies and Fruit Flies
- Modifying the Genome and its Expression
- From Genes to Human Disease
- From the Human Genome Project to Complex Traits
- Delivering Genes into Humans
- Modalities for Genetic Interventions
- From Cloning to Gene Therapy – the Globin Gene Paradigm
- The RNA Revolution