A Post Genomic Surprise: The Molecular Reinscription of Race in Clinical Medicine & Forensic Science

Dr. Troy Duster Department of Sociology New York University
When Mar 08, 2007
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 4M06
Contact NameEmmanuel Chang
Contact Phone (718) 262-3778
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At the March, 2000 news conference at the White House, President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair jointly hosted and celebrated the completion of the "first draft" of the full map and sequence of the human genome. Francis Collins and Craig Venter, fierce competitors in the race to complete the map, stepped forward to agree on one thing -- that the Human Genome Project provided definitive evidence that racial categories have no meaning at the level of the DNA. The oft-quoted figure of "we are all 99.9 per cent alike" (in our DNA) became a mantra for the next few years. However, at the same time, there was a "turn to difference" in the new fields of pharmacogenomics and pharmacotoxicology, aided by supercomputers and the capacity to do profiles of the more than 3 million points of difference (DNA markers) between any two individuals. It would soon follow that the technology would be used to find patterned markers of differences between groups of individuals, socially marked. This generated a huge debate, culminating in the approval by the FDA in June, 2005 of the first race-based drug, BiDil, about the role of race in clinical medicine. In addition, the whole arena of "ancestral informative markers" has burgeoned, both as "recreational" knowledge about ancestral origins, but as well in forensics, as a means of predicting the race of a crime suspect based upon tissue samples left at a crime scene. These converging developments are ushering in a new era of the reinscription of race as a category in biology, clinical medicine, and forensics, and the implications for social science and public policy are profound. This lecture will examine some of the social and political implications of these developments.

All are welcome. Refreshments will be served.