Primer for the Age of Polygenic Screening, Present and Future

Fergus Fettes

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Polygenic Screening dropped without a bang in 2020. In this short technical primer, I go over the current state of the art in polygenic screening, and outline some of the potentialities for the future.

Polygenic screening is here. The space of human genetics is being converted into bits, and this information is being bought and sold on an open market.

This 25-minute talk will cover the technical state of the art in human screening, and outline future possibilities.

Part 1: Polygenic Screening Primer

  • An overview of the current state of the art in human screening -
  • The difference between monogenic and polygenic traits and their inheritance patterns 
  • A discussion of 21 commonly tested-for diseases and their risk correlations
  • The impact of screening on 'designer babies' and the legality, prevalence, and price of these screenings in Europe

Part 2: The Future

  • The role of animal breeding techniques in shaping the future of medicine 
  • A look at current widely used techniques, such as In Vitro Embryo Production, Cloning, and Germline Editing (e.g., with CRISPR)
  • An overview of potential breakthroughs in synthetic biology and synthetic morphology

DISCLAIMER: I do not intend to talk about any of the following: eugenics, sexism, ableism, racism. The reason I want to give this talk is exactly because these issues are so difficult, and because we are walking into a new reality with our eyes closed. But I am sensitive to the complexity of these topics, and will avoid inflaming any unproductive conversation. There will be a 5 minute QnA.

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