‘Life Re-Engineered’

Our own Prof. John Rasko AO has been invited to deliver the ABC’s prestigious Boyer Lecture for 2018 examining and explaining the impact of revolutionary genetic and cell-based technologies on our lives

The power of gene therapy to cure disease, prolong life and change the course of human evolution will be explored by world-leading scientist Professor John Rasko AO in the landmark 60th year of the ABC’s Boyer Lecture series.

Professor Rasko’s “Life Re-engineered” lectures, which will be broadcast on ABC RN’s Big Ideas from 15-18 October at 8pm, will examine how developments in cell science and genetics are transforming medicine and changing what it means to be human.

“We stand at the start of a revolution that may alter the very fabric of our being and the essence of what it means to be human,” Professor Rasko said. “Reproductive technologies and gene- and cell-based technologies offer the possibility of prolonging life and curing disease — and controlling even our evolution as a species.

The four 2018 Boyer Lectures will be broadcast on ABC RN’s Big Ideas from Monday 15 October to Thursday 18 October at 8pm, and available on podcast via the ABC listen app. The first lecture will also be broadcast on ABC TV on Thursday 11 October at 1pm.

Across four lectures, Professor Rasko will explore issues such as:

How advances in biomedicine, such as prenatal testing and gene therapy, have revived the debate around eugenics – a concept poisoned by its association with the Nazis.

How gene therapies will not only enable us to cure inheritable diseases but to re-engineer ourselves at the most basic level.

Why stem cell research has had such a scandal-prone history, promising the dawn of regenerative medicine but delivering few therapeutic wonders.

Whether having the power to re-engineer life gives us the right to do so — a question Mary Shelley posed 200 years ago in her novel Frankenstein.

The Boyer Lectures, which began in 1959, are given each year by a prominent Australian about major social, cultural, scientific or political issues. Prime Ministers, Governors General, High Court judges, archbishops, artists, poets, scientists and business leaders are among those who have shared their ideas and concerns over the past 60 years.

In 1989, pre-eminent Australian philosopher Professor Max Charlesworth peered into the future with his Boyer Lectures series titled “Life, Death, Genes and Ethics”. Nearly three decades later, Professor Rasko reprises that theme with some urgency by examining the future of regenerative medicine, biotechnology and gene therapy.

Join the debate: #BoyerLectures