Promises and Fears of New Biotechnologies: Making Decisions with Stakeholder and Community Participation

Joseph Priestley Society
Thursday, March 14, 2019
5:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for the March gathering of the Joseph Priestley Society.

Advances in biotechnology are occurring at an astonishing rate, with potential for solving problems in public health, medicine, conservation, and agriculture. But uncertainties remain about efficacy, ecological risks, unintended consequences, and ethical implications. This program investigates novel efforts to engage scientists, stakeholders, and communities to work together to explore these complex questions.

The specific example discussed in this program involves gene-drive technology to change the genetics of wild mouse populations. Gene drives bias inheritance patterns beyond standard Mendelian rates (where offspring have a 50/50 chance of inheriting a gene from their mother or father). Synthetic gene drives have recently become possible through advanced gene-editing tools such as CRISPR, and they have been shown to work in the laboratory in yeast, fruit flies, and mosquitoes.

Work on mice has begun in relation to two projects, one focused on conservation, the other on public health. Jason Delborne and Carrie Fyler will present the two sides of engagement between scientists and communities. Delborne will discuss a project that explores the possibility of using gene drives to eradicate an invasive mouse species from an island in order to protect endemic biodiversity. Fyler will examine a proposed project to engineer mice to prevent them from transmitting Lyme disease to ticks, using a gene drive on populations of mice on Martha’s Vineyard. Fyler serves on the island’s steering committee to provide a forum for community discussion and oversight.


Event Schedule

  • 5:00 p.m.
    Networking Reception

  • 6:15 p.m.


About the Speakers

Jason Delbourne

Jason Delbourne

Jason Delbourne.

Jason Delborne joined North Carolina State University in 2013 in the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster in Genetic Engineering and Society. He also serves as an associate professor of science, policy, and society in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. Delborne’s research focuses on highly politicized scientific controversies, such as agricultural biotechnology, nanotechnology, biofuels, and climate change. He uses various qualitative research methodologies to ask questions about how policymakers and members of the public interface with controversial science, especially emerging biotechnologies, such as gene drives and synthetic biology.

Delborne has published peer-reviewed articles in various journals, including Social Studies of Science, Public Understanding of Science, and Science and Public Policy, and he recently coedited a special issue of the Journal of Responsible Innovation on gene drives. Delborne served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committees on gene drives, which released its report, Gene Drives on the Horizon, in 2016.

Carrie Fyler

Carrie Fyler

Carrie Fyler.

Parasitologist and molecular biologist Carrie Fyler received her PhD from the University of Connecticut. She has conducted field research on four continents and participated in workshops and conferences in more than ten countries. In addition, as part of an ongoing project, Fyler spent multiple years collaborating with an international team of scientists dedicated to cataloging cestode diversity, a project funded by the National Science Foundation. She has published multiple papers in notable scientific journals and has received academic awards, including an Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Connecticut.

Fyler currently teaches AP biology and science research at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. She is particularly interested in tick-borne disease on Martha’s Vineyard and is actively involved in the Chilmark Board of Health steering committee for MIT’s community-based project “Mice against Ticks.” The project, led by MIT media lab professor Kevin Esvelt, aims to genetically engineer mice that are heritably immune to Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

About the Series

The Joseph Priestley Society (JPS) promotes a deeper understanding of science, technology, and industry, with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. Speakers are leaders from a wide variety of large and small chemical companies and the financial, consulting, and academic communities.

For more information about this event, please contact Sarah Reisert at 215.873.8263 or