February 28 Tuesday

Ubiquitous DNA Forensics and Cross-Kingdom Clues: The Evisceration of Molecular Privacy

  • Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 12:00PM - 1:00PM
  • Baker Hall A005
  • Open To The Yale Community
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Ubiquitous DNA Forensics and Cross-Kingdom Clues: The Evisceration of Molecular Privacy

Abstract: Recent advancements and utilization of genetic technologies, concomitant with new computational prediction tools, have greatly attenuated a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. This is partly due to newfound abilities to discover a “molecular echo” of an individual’s genetic state simply from cells deposited on public surfaces. Nucleic acid remnants can now be linked to at least eleven phenotypes including ancestry, facial features, age, identity, cell type, environmental history, geospatial localization, obesity, presence of a disease or infection, circadian rhythm, and gestational status. Cross-kingdom genetic and metagenomic forensics, high-resolution genetic ancestry, and personally-linked molecular data can be determined by these eleven phenotypes, thereby creating an unprecedented ability to infer personal details from microscopic biological material left behind on a public surface. These methods now create an easy means for tracking individuals and also new, surreptitious means of genetic discrimination, underscoring the need for updated laws and policies to protect genetic rights and liberties in the post-genome era.

Bio:  Dr. Christopher Mason completed his dual B.S. in Genetics and Biochemistry from University of Wisconsin-Madison (2001), his Ph.D. in Genetics from Yale University (2006), and then completed his post-doctoral training at Yale Medical School in genetics, while also serving as the first Fellow for Genomics, Ethics, and Law at the Information Society Project, working on the AMP v. Myriad case while at Yale Law School (2009). He is currently an Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, with appointments at the Tri-Institutional Program on Computational Biology and Medicine between Cornell, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Rockefeller University, the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, and the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute.

The Mason laboratory develops and deploys new biochemical and computational methods in functional genomics to elucidate the genetic basis of human disease and human physiology. We create and explore novel techniques in next-generation sequencing and algorithms for: tumor evolution, genome evolution, DNA and RNA modifications, and genome/epigenome engineering. We also work closely with NIST/FDA to build international standards for these methods, to ensure clinical-quality genome measurements/editing. We also work with NASA to build integrated molecular portraits of genomes, epigenomes, transcriptomes, and metagenomes for astronauts, which help establish the molecular foundations and genetic defenses for enabling long-term human space travel. Finally, we work to understand the impact of these technologies on law and society.

He has won the NIH’s Transformative R01 Award, the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance Young Investigator award, the Hirschl-Weill-Caulier Career Scientist Award, the Vallee Foundation Young Investigator Award, the CDC Honor Award for Standardization of Clinical Testing, and the WorldQuant Foundation Research Scholar Award.  He was named as one of the “Brilliant Ten” Scientists by Popular Science, featured as a TEDMED speaker, and called “The Genius of Genetics” by 92Y.  He has >125 peer-reviewed papers that have been featured on the covers of Nature, Science, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Microbiology, Neuron, and Genome Biology and Evolution, and cited by the U.S. District Court and U.S. Supreme Court.  His work has also appeared on the covers of the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, TIME, and the New York Times, many media (ABC, NBC, CBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, PBS, NASA, NatGeo). He has co-founded three biotechnology start-up companies and serves as an advisor to many others. He lives with his daughter and wife in Brooklyn, NY.

Sponsoring Organization(s)

ISP, Tech Soc