Editing Genomes with CRISPR

International Symposium

Event Location
Frankgasse 8
1090 Vienna

Between scientific breakthroughs and societal challenges.


An extremely important scientific revolution is taking place with the discovery and development of a gene-editing technology termed CRISPR-Cas9. With this tool, the genomes of various organisms can now be edited with unprecedented specificity and simplicity of use. This opens many possibilities for basic research. It also enables the development of numerous applications in biomedicine, agriculture, in addition to offering novel ways of tackling environmental challenges. The potential implications for the further evolution of species, including our own, as well as for our relationship to nature are profound. Thus, the ongoing scientific revolution opens up questions of safety and ethical responsibility, invokes issues of ownership and social justice, and raises the question of how we can collectively steer research practices towards desirable futures. We believe that decisions on when, where and for what purpose this technology will be applied are also political, not least in terms of their consequences. Thus, directing this discovery towards responsible applications and desirable futures, cannot be left to the sole responsibility of scientists, experts and the industry.

This international symposium aims to discuss the potential impact and challenges while exploring the scientific, ethical, and societal issues inherent in genome-editing research. Inputs by key-note speakers, the presentation of three scenarios where the application of CRISPR is envisioned, interdisciplinary panels, as well as formats encouraging the interaction of the audience with speakers will promote engagement through dialogue.


  • Host an open dialogue between the scientific community (ranging from life scientists, to social scientists, and beyond) and civil society, discussing ongoing applications of the CRISPR technology, expected and envisioned developments, and the benefits, caveats and consequences of this technology’s applications;
  • Provide a platform for public engagement on this topic, enabling researchers involved in the CRISPR field to interact with citizens, regulators, and stakeholders;
  • Raise these issues in a European context, in order to facilitate the development of a European engagement with this revolution.

We invite scientists and researchers from the social sciences and humanities, regulators and stakeholders, as well as interest groups and citizens to join the conversation about this ongoing scientific revolution, engaging with us in an open dialogue towards common desirable futures and explore the means and instruments that help to achieve them.

Our speakers include:

Krzysztof Chylinski (Vienna BioCenter)

Jim Dratwa (European Commission, Head of the Office of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies)

Christiane Druml (UNESCO Chair on Bioethics at the Medical University of Vienna and Chair of the Austrian Bioethics Commission)

Karin Garber (Managing Director of „Open Science“, Vienna)

Sheila Jasanoff (Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School)

Ingrid Kelly (Research Services and Career Development, University of Vienna)

Stuart Newman (Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College)

Shobita Parthasarathy (Associate Professor of Public Policy and Women’s Studies, and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, University of Michigan)

Heidemarie Porstner (Gentechnik-/GMO-Campaigner, GLOBAL 2000 – Friends of the Earth Austria)

Barbara Prainsack (Professor of Sociology at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College, London)

Alexandra Ribartis (AGES, Vienna)

Peter Schlögelhofer (Associate Professor at the Department of Chromosome Biology, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna)

Renée Schroeder (Max Perutz Laboratories, Vienna)

Giuseppe Testa (Head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics, European Institute for Oncology, Milan)

Kikue Tachibana-Konwalski (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Vienna)

Christoph Then (Test Biotech, Munich)

Nikolai Windbichler (Research Fellow, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London

Team of organizers

Archaea Biology and Ecogenomics Division
(Melina Kerou, Christa Schleper, and Isabelle Zink)

Department of Science and Technology Studies
(Sarah Bieszczad, Ulrike Felt, Ingrid Metzler, and Corinna Wegscheider)

transform! europe
(Katerina Anastasiou)


The symposium is enabled by funding provided by “transform! europe”, “KLI” and “WTZ Ost” as well as by the Research Platform “Responsible research and Innovation in Academic Practice” and the “Department of Science and Technology Studies“, both at the University of Vienna.

Contact: crispr@univie.ac.at

Registration: There is no registration fee. However, to register please email crispr@univie.ac.at by 8 October 2017.

Website: https://rri.univie.ac.at/en/activities/workshopconferences/crispr-symposium/



Thursday, 19 October 2017

13.00 – 13.15: Opening

13.15 – 13.45: CRISPR-Cas9: From a brief history to possible futures

13.45 – 15.00: Presentation of three scenarios

15.30 – 17.00: First Round Table: Genome Editing between Risk, Precaution and Ethics

17.30 – 19.00: Evening Event with Reception


Friday, 20 October 2017

09.00 – 09.30: Food for thought: Public voices

09.30 – 11.00: Second Round Table: Patenting – and what about Social Justice?

11.30 – 13.00: Third Round Table: Genome Editing and the Commons: Who cares?

13.00 – 14.15: Lunch Break

14.15 – 16.00: Closing Afternoon Panel: Envisioning (un-)desirable future