Science On Tap Minocqua Looks At The Human Genome

Jun 3, 2019

Credit Pixabay.com TheDigitalArtist

A researcher says the study of the human genome is just beginning to revolutionize our lives.

Professor Jason Fletcher of the LaFollette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison is a health economist and Director for the Center for Demography and Health and Aging. He will be the next speaker in the "Science On Tap" series at the Minocqua Brewing Company. He will be addressing some of the social implications surrounding the genomics revolution.

He says there is a revolution going on concerning genetics is due to the rapidly decreasing costs of genetic testing...

"...It cost hundreds of millions of dollars just 10 years ago. Now it's under a thousand dollars and in most cases in can be under $100 per person. What that does is it allows private companies like 23 and Me but also governments around the world to amass very large data sets of human genetics and use those data sets to engage in new discoveries...."

He says the widely-distributed databases could change, for example, how a company might look at a life insurance or health issue. He says right now you can't discriminate in employment based on a person's health background. He says, for example, the long term health care industry might use that type of information to make decisions about accepting people. He says genetic information might be able to steer a child into special education earlier than they might have been. Fletcher says there has been considerable interest in criminal justice use of that information including solving cold cases.

But the debate will include the positive and potential negatives of this type of knowledge...

"..What kind of guardrails do we want to set as a society that values privacy. Where in our lives are we interested in having this information used to help decision making and what areas do we want it to be off limits..."

Jason Fletcher will be speaking at Science On Tap at the Minocqua Brewing Company in Minocqua on June 5 at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome.

A longer interview is available on our website if you look for WXPR Saturday Edition Program 5.