Acclaimed author and oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee spoke from his home via video conference to over 400 virtual attendees at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Library. Mukherjee discussed his book The Gene, and the recent PBS documentary of the same name by Ken Burns and Barak Goodman that featured CSHL scientists. Dr. Matthew Cobb, University of Manchester professor and author of Life’s Greatest Secret and Richard Sever, co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv, also participated.
The hour-long conversation covered the history of genetics as a field, how current technology is shaping the ways we use DNA, and what the future might hold. Mukherjee, Cobb, and Sever delved into hot topics, including privacy, CRISPR, and even the nuances of what people mean when they talk about genes.
“It is actually quite clear that many people have different definitions of the word gene. People have tried to define this word, understand this word,” said Mukherjee. “I wanted to use in the book every definition or cover every definition. A gene is a unit of heredity. A gene specifies a trait. A gene is the code that carries the code or the material. A gene carries information from parents to offspring. I felt that we needed to embrace all of them, and different aspects of the book and the film emphasize, or go into, the idea.”
Watch the full discussion below: