Samira Kiani: 2019-2020 Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellow

My research focus is understanding and engineering of safety of CRISPR-based gene editing technologies. And what I mean by safety, I mean there are issues with regards to immune response, with regards to hitting the right organ, or avoiding the germ cells to edit, when you are using that for gene therapies. And I’m interested in answering those questions. And I’m interested in understanding the wider societal and ethical issues with regards to gene editing. I think human augmentation is engineering new capabilities in human body, to be able to defeat new diseases, or diseases in a new way. So we are changing people’s lives, and this means that, in theory, we have the capacity to change any part of our DNA code. This means that we will have the potential to have new traits or new genetic capacities. This is part of our new future. We collectively, as human beings, need to decide whether we want that world or not. And that’s why I believe that public engagement in this process is absolutely critical. So I’m producing a documentary film called “Code of the Wild,” which is exploring the lives of human future through the stories of humans of today. Also, I’m developing TomorrowLab, which is a social media-based, AI-driven collaborative filmmaking strategy to engage public in the conversation. What I hope to gain from my Leshner Fellowship is two things. One, I’m hoping to build a network and relationships with other fellows and also expand the network of the people that I know. Second is I hope to hone my social media skills because I believe social media is crucial to doing effective communication in future.

Michael Martin

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