TRACK Life Scienes and Biotechnology

S16: Diagnostics after the genome: reconfiguring subjectivities and collectivities

Erik AARDEN & Ingrid METZLER (University of Vienna), Austria

Fifteen years after its completion, the Human Genome Project begins to make differences in biomedicine. Advancements in genome sequencing techniques and bioinformatics and evolving insights into the relations between genomic variants and conditions increasingly find their way into clinical practices. While doing so, they also reconfigure these practices.

Some of these reconfigurations affect how diagnostics is done in clinics and what difference diagnostics makes for individuals. For instance, over the past decade a number of individuals around the globe got themselves (partly) “sequenced,” using services of “direct to consumer” companies, such as 23andMe. Prenatal testing and diagnostics has also been reconfigured significantly over the past five years, with the rise of “cell free fetal DNA” testing, which builds on platforms enabled by the Human Genome Project. Last but not least, personalized medicine has begun to arrive in cancer clinics, with the genotyping of cancers. These changes in diagnostic regimes have significant implications for how societies understand and order health and disease. Diagnostics, the practices of identifying and classifying medical conditions, attribute the status of health, risk and illness to individuals. Joined to this epistemic determination of one’s bio-pathological state are a range of sociopolitical identities and orders, which me may understand in terms of Parsons’ classic notion as ‘sick role’. In other words, the practice of diagnostics is a juncture between biomedicine and society, and thus a particularly valuable space to make sense of biomedicine after the genome.

In this session, we wish to shed light on emerging diagnostic practices “after the genome,” the ways in which these are achieved and the differences that these make in practice. Specifically, we wish to develop an understanding of the various ways in which diagnostics is being reconfigured in practice. We invite empirical papers that engage with the reconfiguration of diagnostics specifically (but not exclusively) along the following themes and questions:

1. Epistemic (re-)configurations: How are conditions reclassified? How is expertise

distributed and shared?

2. Sociopolitical orders, configurations, and reconfigurations: What kind of sociopolitical orders are coproduced with these epistemic reconfigurations? How are different diagnostic practices shaped by distinct forms of organizations and infrastructures, such as hospitals, markets and policy arenas? How do epistemic and technological changes in biomedicine, in turn, reconfigure these organizations and infrastructures?

3. Reconfigurations of identities and subjectivities: How are individual and collective identities transformed? What kind of subjectivities are coproduced in this reconfiguration process?

Through a focus on these themes and questions, we seek to advance our understanding of the pluriform ways in which diagnostics after the genome manifest in health care and affects the ways diagnoses afford individual and collective social entitlements.

KEYWORDS: biomedicine, genomics, diagnostics, coproduction, identities
 



S17: Microbial living in the time of antimicrobial resistance

Salla SARIOLOA (University of Turku) Finland; Matthäus REST (MaxPlanc Institute for the Science of Human History), Germany; Charlotte BRIVES (Centre Emile Durkheim, Université de Bordeaux), France

This panel explores new social forms generated by the global increase of antimicrobial eesistance (AMR). While antibiotics are increasingly becoming redundant due to drug resistance, modern medicine is at the risk of being turned back by a century. As a response of this threat, various new social forms are emerging. These new social forms include new biotechnological solutions: super-antibiotics, vaccines and bacteriophages against drug resistant microbes; regulatory structures that enable their research; ensembles of funding structures between start-ups and universities; as well as social groups working towards living with bacteria, rather than against them. The panel conceptualises the new social forms to include post-human assemblages and their more-than-human agency. In this era, we argue, it is vital to gain a more granular view of the various practices of relation-making between humans, animals and microbes, and how they are affected by the threat and reality of antibiotics and AMR. Taking cue from Foucault’s notion of biopolitics (1978), Paxson (2008) has conceptualised the encounters of microbes, humans and politics as ‘micro-biopolitical’, keeping domains of microbes, power and governance squarely in view. While empirical and ethnographic examples of such co-existence are sparse, the possibility of studying pathogens in social sciences has encouraged Lorimer to argue that social sciences are undergoing a ‘probiotic turn’ (Lorimer, 2017). What does micro-biopolitics look like in the context of increasing antimicrobial resistance? This panel is interested in post-human assembles of microbial living, in the context of AMR. Topics could include, but are not limited to, examples of the following: - Studies of novel biotechnologies to seek alternatives to antibiotics - Biographies of antibiotics and diagnostics and the pharmaceutical industry and other R&D endeavours - How particular subjects and nations are constructed as global health targets of AMR related activities, policies and research? - How are resistomes and microbiotas explored and compared? - Use of antibiotics in food production and managing life-stock, and the so-called one-health approach to the study of AMR - How are antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance affecting the human-microbe relations in fields like fermentation? - How boundaries of bodies are made

KEYWORDS: microbiopolitics, antimicrobial resistance, living with microbes
 

 


 

S18: Fostering agricultural biotechnology in line with RRI principles

Armin SPÖK (Graz University of Technology), Monica RACOVITA (Alpen-Adria Universitaet Klagenfurt |Wien Graz), Austria

Despite the efforts of the European Union to harness the full economic potential of biotechnology, the development of a bioeconomy strategy has - so far - not led to significant progress in agricultural biotechnology. Recent developments in synthetic biology and genome editing have triggered new hopes in certain stakeholder groups that the long-standing promises could be finally fulfilled. Yet the directions to be taken for innovation, commercial application and risk regulation appear to deeply divide stakeholders. These challenges seem to acquire another dimension with the European Union decision to pursuit the strategy of responsible research and innovation. Against this backdrop the main question for this panel is if and how RRI could help to proceed with agricultural biotech applications. Contributions on both concepts and examples of implementing RRI in agricultural biotech research and innovation practice are particularly invited

KEYWORDS: agricultural biotechnology, responsible research and innovation
 



S19: Criteria for Bioeconomy

Wolfgang LIEBERT & Susanne SCHNEIDER-VOSS (Ethics Platform Institute of Safety and Risk), Austria

Bioeconomy is an important strategy of the future with transformative potential. While implementing Bioeconomy in research as well as in development and teaching, ethical principles and values have to be considered. Therefore the Ethics platform of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) has drafted a paper which aims at sensitizing responsible acting with regard to the different dimensions of Bioeconomy.

Big hopes are at stake concerning bioeconomic strategies, which could turn out as enabling a renewable basis for the future industrial system. Can we tap the full potential of bioeconomy and at the same time identify and avoid erroneous trends? Can bioeconomy be shaped in a foreward looking way? Bioeconomy must raise the claim to respect ecological, technical, social and economic aspects likewise. The draft paper “Ethical criteria for bioeconomy” presented on http://www.boku.ac.at/ethikplattform/kriterien-fuer-die-biooekonomie  formulates a multitude of criteria (scientific-technological, socio-economic, methodological). These criteria aim, in particular, to sensitize scientists and other stakeholders to the sustainability goals which have to be combined with bioeconomy objectives.

In this session, we would like to discuss our draft paper with regard to responsibility in bioeconomic research, development and teaching. Numerous fundamental ethical-political questions are touched: How do we want to live in future? How do we want to live in and together with nature? How can we meet the requirements with regard to a good, fair and sustainable live in the long term? What concept of sustainability shall we take as a basis? How can we achieve inter- and intragenerational justice?

We would like to present our draft to the participants (scientists from various disciplines, students, citizens etc.) and to debate the following questions, as examples, by the means of a discourse: Is the paper suited to sensitize responsible acting respecting the different dimensions of bioeconomy in research and teaching? Are the criteria suited to support researchers by planning and implementing bioeconomic projects in a responsible manner? Will researchers potentially feel to be limited in their freedom of research? In what way institutions like universities should provide assistance to meet the criteria? Do the criteria have the potential to be reflected in research strategies dealing with bioeconomy? Which points should be re-sharpened? What aspects are missing?

We intend to implement the results of the discussions about these questions into a renewed draft. Finally, a valide packet of criteria should result. The first intention is to enable researchers as well as the teaching staff inside and outside BOKU to orientate themselves in the dynamic field of bioeconomy. Furthermore, it could also serve as a guiding thread for non-academic stakeholders like from industry, weather or not they intend to perform contract research.

KEYWORDS: bioeconomy, ethical discourse, sustainability, responsible research and innovation
 



S20: Designed to spread – gene drives as a challenge for innovation policy and governance

Bernd GIESE (Institute of Safety and Risk Sciences, Vienna), Austria; Johannes FRIEß (Department of Technological Design and Development, University of Bremen), Germany; Wolfgang LIEBERT (Institute of Safety and Risk Sciences at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna), Austria

Due to substantial advances in genome editing, the modification or even eradication of whole populations by so called gene drives made significant progress within recent years. Gene drives have become a much-debated prospective tool for control of agricultural pests, infectious disease vectors as well as invasive species. For disease management transmitting insect species like mosquitoes are targeted so that new traits spread rapidly in natural populations including the potential to drive populations towards extinction. Using the new and comparably handy “gene scissors” CRISPR/Cas9, the penetration of the target population by gene drives could be achieved a lot quicker than under conditions of the natural pattern of heredity. But once released, particularly insects are difficult to control.

An early-stage assessment of this approach as well as its consequences for biodiversity and ecosystems is necessary for preparing a broad inner-scientific and societal discourse. Prospective technology assessment of gene drives is essential in order to determine reasons for concern and potential benefits. In case of gene drive development to fight malaria the link to current global political agendas is obvious, in particular the possible impact on the UN and WHO program to eliminate malaria until 2030 is of high relevance. However, compared with previous releases of genetically modified organisms the intentionally uncontrolled spread of engineered selfish genetic elements in wild populations implies a new depth of intervention into ecosystems and hence for the power to drive ecosystems beyond tipping points into possibly unexpected and undesirable trajectories (e.g., by disrupting food webs). Thus gene drives represent a new quality in genetic (ecosystem-) engineering. The aim of the session is (a) to assess the potential impact of this new stage in genetic engineering for intended release and concurrently examine reasons for concern as well as potential benefits, (b) to reflect on the role of responsible research and innovation with regard to gene drives as a technology with a potentially high depth of intervention and (c) to discuss options for an appropriate governance in accordance with the precautionary principle. In this regard we would like to launch an open call for papers.

KEYWORDS:  gene drive, CRISPR/Cas9, prospective technology assessment, precautionary principle, Responsible Research and Innovation
 



S21:  High-tech food: expanding the biosphere from lab benches to satellite constellations

Franc MALI (University of Ljubljana), Slovenia; Matjaž VIDMAR (University of Edinburgh), United Kingdom

The future sustainability of food production is crucially dependent on the understanding of the social life of both biotechnology as well as environmental monitoring and management. As an example, while Molecular and Synthetic Biology are on one hand attempting to create obedient food producers in the form of new organisms, on the other hand Remote Sensing and Satellite Data Applications are shaping a new era of stewardship of ecological systems of mass production. In this session, we will look at the development of new interdisciplinary science and technology solutions to enable agricultural production, both on a micro (laboratory) to macro (environmental) scales. Of particular interest are the configurations of the emergent networks of developers, producers and users of technological solutions, their individual and collective economic and socio-political interests, legal and ethical aspects of the progress of the new technologies, and the necessary conditions establishing critical mass of interest in these new technologies. We invite paper contributions related to the development and deployment of high-tech solutions from colleagues working in biotechnology, innovation, interdisciplinary collaborations, responsible research and innovation (RRI), environmental monitoring, food security and related fields. We will schedule one or two panels with about 6 paper-givers or – alternatively – the round-table discussion to bring all different contributions together and brainstorm proposals for future international and interdisciplinary research.

KEYWORDS: biotechnology, molecular and synthetic biology, ecological system, agricultural production
 



S22: Need for responsible biohacking?

Armin SPÖK (Graz University of Technology),  Monica RACOVITA (Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt |Wien Graz), Austria

DIY biology – sometimes dubbed as biohacking - has evolved as citizen science initiatives in many countries over the recent years. These groups encompass a wide spectrum - from garage labs with self-made laboratory appliances to semi-professional community laboratories.

According to their self-portraits, these initiatives are mainly non-profit, open-access and open-source oriented. Moreover, at least in the EU they still have to operate under national regulatory oversight and EU law. Recently concerns have been raised that the novel methods  of genome editing would greatly enhance what could be done in DIY biology labs – implying potential biosafety and biosecurity issues while operating under the radar of regulatory oversight. The panel aims to portrait this community (actors, aims, activities, diversity of groups) by drawing on inputs from STS researchers and from members of the biohacking community. The main question to investigate is if genome editing did or could possibly enhance their activities and if so – if there is a need of mandatory of voluntary standards for the DIY biology community. A visit to a biohacker’s lab in Graz will be organised.
 

KEYWORDS: DIY biology, do-it-yourself biology, biohacking, genome editing