Change Watch: Eric Lander, Co-Chair, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
Aug. 7, 2009
POSITION: CO-CHAIR, PRESIDENTS COUNCIL OF ADVISORS ON SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY (PCAST)
APPOINTEE: Eric S. Lander
BIRTH DATE: February 3, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York
A.B. in Mathematics, Princeton University, 1978
D.Phil. in Mathematics, Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University, 1981
FAMILY: Wife-Lori Weiner; three children-Jessica, Daniel, David
FRC SCORECARD: NA
1993-present Professor of Biology, MIT
Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School
2003 Founding Director, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
1990 Director, Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research
1986, 1989 Fellow, Member, Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, MA
1984,1989 Visiting Scientist, Associate Professor, Dept of Biology, MIT
1987-1990 Associate Professor of Managerial Economics, Harvard Business School
1981-1986 Assistant Professor of Managerial Economics, Harvard Business School
Member, National Academy of Sciences
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Member, Institute of Medicine
ON EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS
Leonard Zon, a Harvard stem cell scientist who knows Lander and Varmus and has followed Holdrens career, said the three men are likely to recommend more federal support for embryonic stem cell research, and budget increases for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. agency that backs the bulk of basic science conducted at academic institutions.
I know theyre very enthusiastic about stem cell biology, Zon said.
Among Participants and Attendees at President Barack Obamas Signing of Stem Cell Executive Order and Scientific Integrity Presidential Memorandum
Young scientists, who might have been hesitant to enter the promising field, no longer need to worry about funding, said Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and cochairman of a presidential scientific advisory council.
“I think it sends an extraordinary message to young scientists today - that this nation will back them,” he said from Washington, where he attended Obama’s signing and speech.
Lander is a renowned stem-cell researcher at MIT, a world-class university that stands to get even more federal funding, thanks to Obama’s stem-cell move. An MIT spokeswoman says the university takes conflict-of-interest precautions when its faculty serve in government positions - but added that it won’t recuse itself from funding opportunities related to Obama’s decision.
Eric Lander, a leading figure at the HGP and a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the United States, said human cloning is “impossible” and “absolutely wrong.”
He said scientists cannot produce human beings, nor should they try to change human beings. He added that HGP is designed to understand the human genome, not to change it.
Many scientists warn of horrific consequences if anyone tries to apply the techniques used to create ‘Dolly’ the sheep for producing cloned people.
Cloning involves enormous risks and is inefficient. There are many other natural ways of helping infertile women give birth. Mankind does not need to clone itself, Lander said.
ON GENETIC TESTING
Look, there are a small number of things that are destiny. A small number of genetic certainties where you can say the baby, God forbid is, gonna have some terrible disease that we can’t do anything about. But most of the genetic information that’s encoded in the human DNA is not about certainty.
It’s about the fact that perhaps when she grows up she’ll have twice the risk of diabetes. That’s not good but it’s not a disaster. I think, as a parent, that you have to add this long list of maybe’s that genetics is gonna potentially give you to a much longer list of worries that every parent has had since there were parents.
Genomic science is dramatically widening the scope for understanding cancers, but breakthrough cures should be expected within generations, not years, says Eric Lander, one of the leading scientists in this field.
ON THE NEW BIOLOGY AND LIFE
“Modern biology is undergoing a revolution that will fundamentally leave our understanding of life so changed that we won’t be able to remember how we used to think about life before that point.”