Following the annual theme "What the World Needs Now," Burda's innovation conference is launching a new online format in February with prominent speakers.
How can we protect humans from viruses, aging and genetic diseases? What are the ethical issues we need to take into consideration? Moderated by Jamie Metzl, author of Hacking Darwin, scientists Ellen Jorgensen and George Church discussed last week the possibilities of biotechnology and gene editing in medicine and health regarding the corona virus at DLD Sync, the digital online event series of the DLD conference.
Ellen Jorgensen is the Chief Science Officer and co-founder of Aanika. She holds a Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology and has spent more than 30 years in the biotechnology industry. George Church, a pioneer of genomic science, leads Synthetic Biology at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. The institute aims to transform medicine by developing innovations based on biological design principles.
"A vaccine is not absolutely necessary"
The renowned genome researcher and molecular biologist George Church is convinced that we can get the coronavirus under control even without a vaccine: "We already have the tools in our hands to end the pandemic". He believes it is possible to eliminate the spread of the virus in a short time and at comparatively low cost. Church's idea is based on the fact that the corona virus only survives because new infections continue to occur. If all infected persons without exception were identified and quarantined, the virus would die out quickly.
"This strategy must work, especially in view of the fact that the development of a vaccine can take a long time or even prove impossible. Once the appropriate infrastructure is in place, i.e. within a few months, it can eradicate the coronavirus regionally, nationally, continentally and ultimately worldwide."
Georg Church, pionieer of genomic science
Billions of people need to be tested
However, in order to be able to detect all those infected – even those who show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all – millions, even billions of people worldwide would have to be tested. With the current testing capacities, this is not feasible and seems like a utopian undertaking. But that is exactly what Church wants to achieve. Technological developments, which the so-called Human Genome Project, in which Church was also involved, launched some 20 years ago, are intended to help achieving this. Read more about his idea on Focus Online and the DLD newsblog.
If you missed the DLD Sync session you can watch the video here.
Upcoming DLD Sync sessions: