From Understanding to Tinkering - the Future of Genome Research

From Understanding to Tinkering – the Future of Genome Research


© Veronika Natter

© Veronika Natter

The result of the STATE artist residency at the MDC and the science behind it: the artwork, a mini symposium, a panel discussion, and a reception. Delivered by: artist Emilia Tikka, and Dr. Jens Reich, Roland Schwarz, Sascha Sauer, Simone Spuler and Luiza Bengtsson.

Genome editing tools such as CRISPR are beginning to reshape the physical world around us, one base pair at a time. As an Artist in Residence in labs at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and at STATE Studio Emilia Tikka explored how this could affect society in the future. Her questions were threefold:

  1. Why do cells age and how could it be stopped or reversed? (Science)

  2. What is behind the human wish to live forever? (Philosophy) and

  3. What would a society look like where people can choose to extend their lifespan? (Speculative scenario).

On November 1st, she will present the resulting artwork called “AEON - Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR” at the new science art gallery STATE Studio in Berlin.

Tikka's art is designed to spark debate. Prominent scientists from the MDC will join her and provide even more food for thought. In three short keynotes Dr. Roland Schwarz (MDC Group Leader “Evolutionary and Cancer Genomics”), Dr. Sascha Sauer (Head of the MDC Scientific Genomics Platforms), and Professor Simone Spuler (University Outpatient Clinic for Muscle Disorders, Experimental and Clinical Research Center at the MDC) will speak about their own quest to find and understand patterns in the human genome that are relevant to health and disease, and even their plans to edit genes in order to help patients.

Together with renowned bioethicist Professor Jens Reich (MDC) they will discuss how far along we are on our way from understanding the genome to tinkering with it – and what the future might hold. The panel is moderated by Dr. Luiza Bengtsson. Refreshments will be provided. 

The artist residency was funded by the EU ORION Open Science Project, which aims to engage society in discussions of the risks and opportunities presented by disruptive technologies. 

Time and Place

November 1st, 2018, 17:00-20:00 p.m.

Berlin Science Week Meeting Hub @ STATE Studio, Hauptstrasse 3, 10827 Berlin (underground station Kleistpark)

To register for the mini-symposium with guided tours, keynotes, panel discussion and refreshments please register here.

Speaker Details

Simone Spuler

Professor Simone Spuler’s research focuses on the understanding of cell processes in muscular dystrophy, in muscle regeneration and aging, and, in particular, in developing novel therapies. Currently she heads the Institute for Muscle Sciences and University Outpatient Clinic for Muscle Disorders of the Charite located in Berlin-Buch and holds a Professorship in the Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Jens Reich

Professor Jens Reich has worked at Berlin-Buch since 1968. From 1992 until he became emeritus in 2004, he was leader of MDC’s research group on medical genomics; today, he is an ombudsman. In the 1980s, Jens Reich was active in the civil rights movement in the GDR and, in 1989/90, was a co-founder of the “New Forum”. In 1994, he stood as an independent candidate for the office of Federal President and, from 2001 to 2012, was a member of the German Ethics Council.

Roland Schwarz

Dr. Roland Schwarz, lead investigator of MDC-BIMSB junior research group on “Evolutionary and Cancer Genomics” since October 2016, develops and applies machine learning and statistical methods to reconstruct the evolutionary history of cancer in the patient and associate germline and somatic variation with changes in gene regulation. His main research question is how cancer evolves in the body of a patient.

Sascha Sauer

Dr. Sascha Sauer leads the scientific Genomics platform at the MDC-BIMSB since August 2016. The Scientific Genomics Platform focuses on functional genome research using sophisticated next generation sequencing methodologies. His research concerns Nutrigenomics and Gene Regulation. Together with his team, he discovered a gene regulatory substance in licorice root effective against diabetes mellitus type 2, as well as basic mechanisms of the effects of the “magical” natural substance resveratrol.

Emilia Tikka

Emilia Tikka is a designer, artist and filmmaker – originally from Finland and currently based in Berlin. Her interdisciplinary design and research practice explores philosophical dimensions and cultural implications of novel biotechnologies such as synthetic biology and gene editing technology CRISPR-cas9. Her methods of research varies from designing objects, constellations, concepts and fictions to writing and hands-on laboratory experiments. 

Luiza Bengtsson

Dr. Luiza Bengtsson is a biochemist, science communicator and science educator with work experience and educational background in Germany, Sweden, Poland and USA. In her current role, she’s responsible for knowledge exchange and public engagement at the MDC. Her most recent project is theART-SCIENCE collaboration on the topic of genome editing, in the framework of the EU-funded H2020 project ORION aiming at promoting cultural change towards Open Science.