A large-scale public event bridging science and society

On December 2nd, a large-scale public event, organized by the City of Vienna in cooperation with the Vienna BioCenter took place in the Globe Theater. With more than 1300 registrations, all the people following the live stream, and a crowded auditorium in the Globe Theater it was one of the biggest events dedicated to science and society held in Vienna.

The Vienna Lecture Series is an established format, offered by the city of Vienna with the aim of conveying knowledge of different fields to the public. Daniel Löcker, organizer and coordinator of the Vienna Lecture Series, emphasized the international leading role of the ViennaBioCenter in life sciences and the mission of making publicly funded research accessible to a lay audience.

“Yesterday´s lecture was a fantastic example of a format to bring science and society closer together, in an open and interdisciplinary setting. I see it as a mission to convey the research happening at IMBA and explain why basic research is so important for our society,” says Jürgen Knoblich, IMBA´s scientific director, who gave a fascinating talk about recent innovations in biotechnology and how they have shaped i.e revolutionized basic biomedical research, with an emphasis on organoid-research at IMBA, as well as its impact for society. 

Subsequently to the talk, an interdisciplinary panel discussion was moderated by science journalist Marlene Nowotny. Questions like “How do we deal with unprecedented possibilities in biomolecular research?” “How can these technologies be used ethically to cure diseases and meet the challenges of the future?” “What are the limits of biotechnology?” were discussed, and interactive polls were included in the debate.

Co-panelists were international best-selling science thriller author Marc Elsberg and Christiane Druml, who is heading the Austrian Bioethics Commission.

“Every researcher will be confronted more and more with ethical aspects of the biosciences. It is important to recognize the values and concerns of society and to take critical voices seriously, so that we can make a positive contribution to defining the conditions for dealing responsibly with new technologies,” Jürgen Knoblich said.

Christiane Druml, chair of the Austrian Bioethics Commission and head of the UNESCO institute for bioethics at the Medical University of Vienna, was commenting on national and global structures of bioethics as well as on the legal boundaries. Science fiction author Marc Elsberg, whose bestseller “Helix” pointed out possible social implications of technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, read passages of his book, where moral scenarios regarding IVF and the topic “designer babies” was covered.

“We were overwhelmed by the great public interest and would have never anticipated that complex topics like stem cell and organoid technology would attract so many viewers”, said Jürgen Knoblich.

In the context of the event, Open Science organized an info stand on the CRISPR/Cas9 technology so that interested people could even get more detailed explanations on this topic.

About IMBA
IMBA - Institute of Molecular Biotechnology - is one of the leading biomedical research institutes in Europe focusing on cutting-edge stem cell technologies, functional genomics, and RNA biology. IMBA is located at the Vienna BioCenter, the vibrant cluster of universities, research institutes and biotech companies in Austria. IMBA is a subsidiary of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the leading national sponsor of non-university academic research. The stem cell and organoid research at IMBA is being funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and the City of Vienna.

Pictures: (c)Paul Pibernig



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