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Spring 2003
The Challenge
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GENETIC IMPACT

THE SEQUENCING OF the human genome, the basis for all of human life, presents both tremendous promise and tremendous risk. UCLA’s Center for Society, the Individual and Genetics (CSIG) will tackle the often difficult issues that are raised by this new technology and its impact on society.

“The impact of genetics is apparent in every academic field,” and the goal of the new center is to “anticipate those societal impacts and try to address them prospectively, rather than retrospectively and reactively,” says Edward R.B. McCabe, a pediatrician and geneticist who heads the center.

While the human species may be enthralled by the advanced technology that has allowed scientists to decipher the codes of life, there exists a tension between the interests of individuals and the interests of society, says McCabe, who is executive chair of the Department of Pediatrics, physician-in-chief of the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and chair of the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society.

CSIG is a broadly interdisciplinary enterprise that will tackle issues ranging from ethical and legal impacts of the Human Genome Project to its broader cultural impact on business, literature, public policy and the arts. The center’s approach, says McCabe, “is very UCLA in its multidisciplinary nature. Because we’re a relatively young university, we are much less hierarchal.” Collaborations across the boundaries of disciplines occur more freely here than elsewhere, he says. “That’s a very different culture, something we just do naturally at UCLA that isn’t so natural at other institutions.”

Because of that natural crossover, McCabe says, CSIG makes it possible “to really engage the intellectual splendor of UCLA — wonderful, creative people in so many disciplines — in addressing these issues from different perspectives and bringing them to life so that we can help educate our community.”

http://www.arc2.ucla.edu/csig

— J.L.E.

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