Seminar Series

Thirty-Fifth Annual Seminar Series

The Genomics Revolution and Health Care

Six Monthly Dinner Seminars
October, 2016 through March, 2017

Maggiano's Little Italy Restaurant, 5333 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC
6:15 Cash Bar / 7:00 Dinner / 8:00 Talk and Q&A / 9:30 Adjourn

The MIT Club of Washington DC is pleased to present its 35th annual Seminar Series on an important national topic related to science, technology, and public policy. Each year, the series offers engineers, scientists, industry leaders, policy makers, and educators an opportunity to explore a specific topic in depth.  Both those within and outside the Washington‑area MIT community gain the opportunity to develop a better understanding of recent developments and key issues.

Presentations by distinguished speakers are followed by ample time for questions and discussion. The social hour and dinner provide additional opportunities to meet the speakers, renew acquaintances, or join in stimulating discussions with other participants.


The last decade has seen a revolution in genomics—from the ability to inexpensively sequence the whole human genome, to the ability to edit individuals’ genes to correct or enhance their expression. The goal is to improve human health care. Two examples are the movement toward precision medicine and new abilities to conquer genetically-complex diseases like cancer and dementia. These advances also raise significant policy issues—from protection of personal medical information, to the risk of unintended consequences on future generations. This Series will explore recent research and technologies (many developed at MIT) that have advanced the genomics revolution along with ethical and policy issues related to health care.

Monday, October 10, 2016

From the Human Genome Project to Precision Medicine:
A Journey to Advance Human Health

Starting with the launch of the Human Genome Project in 1990, the past quarter-century has brought spectacular achievements in genomics that dramatically empower the study of human biology and disease. The human genomics enterprise is now in the midst of an important transition, as the growing foundation of genomic knowledge is being used by researchers and clinicians to tackle increasingly complex problems in biomedicine. Of particular prominence is the use of revolutionary new DNA sequencing technologies for generating prodigious amounts of DNA sequence data to elucidate the complexities of genome structure, function, and evolution, as well as to unravel the genomic bases of rare and common diseases. Meanwhile, impactful clinical applications of genomics are now emerging. Together, these developments are ushering in the era of precision medicine.

Speaker: Dr. Eric D. Green, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Promise of Precision Medicine in Oncology

Traditionally, cancers have been diagnosed by their appearance under the microscope, but a paradigm shift is underway to a molecular diagnosis. This shift has been accelerated by high-throughput technologies that allow us to sub-classify cancers based on changes in the sequence, structure or expression of genes in the cancer genome. Dr. Staudt will discuss how this new molecular diagnosis paradigm is being applied to lymphomas, and illustrate how this is providing effective treatments using a new class of molecularly-targeted anti-cancer agents. Similar precision medicine success stories are emerging throughout oncology at an accelerating rate.

Speaker: Dr. Louis Staudt, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gene Editing and Gene Drives: Is the Engineering Process Sufficiently Open?

The development of CRISPR, a molecular scalpel that can cut and therefore edit any sequence in the genome of nearly any organism, has revolutionized research in the life sciences. It has also highlighted the inadequacy of our current system of doing science behind closed doors. Program an organism with the ability to use CRISPR on its own, and you get gene drive: a system capable of spreading associated traits through entire wild populations over generations. Gene drives could save millions of lives by helping to eradicate malaria and schistosomiasis, and rescue many endangered species and ecosystems by controlling invasive species. The obvious question is, who gets to decide? The problem: no one knows what's being done in the lab. Can we expect all researchers working on their own to be aware of the possible consequences of their work? When a single accidentally released organism could eventually affect the lives of people everywhere—and their confidence in, and support for, science—the answer is more important than ever.

Speaker: Professor Kevin Esvelt, The Media Lab, MIT

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Rise of T-Cell Engineering and Cancer Immunotherapy

Scientists tell us we may be at the crossroads of cancer immunotherapy and engineered immunity. The genomics revolution has given scientists new tools to engineer gene expression and produce genetically enhanced T-cells to attack cancer cells. While the goal is to develop therapies that induce tumor regression and hopefully curative responses, clinical trials of medicines that enhance the human immune system are a necessary first step. This session will address advances in these fields and the likely future gains these technologies may bring to improving health care.

Speaker: Dr. Michel Sadelain, Director for Center for Cell Engineering & Gene Transfer and Gene Expression Laboratory, Memorial Sloan Ketttering Cancer Center

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Advancing Genomics in Health Care: Why Regulation Matters

Advances in genomics science offer extraordinary new opportunities to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Following the initial sequencing of the human genome there has been a remarkable explosion of research and technical advancement. However, good ideas do not automatically translate into working products. In order to fully harness the promise of this rapidly evolving area of science and technology for the betterment of health, careful attention must be paid to the pathway from discovery through innovation, product development and ultimately to real-world application. Regulatory systems, and the science that undergirds them, play a vital role in the assessment of safety, efficacy and quality to ensure that the benefits of novel interventions will outweigh the risks. How can regulatory science advance the development and application of genomics in healthcare? What is the current state of activity?

Speaker: Dr. Margaret Hamburg, former Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration

NEW DATE: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Molecular Genetic Architecture of Common Diseases

Some scientists argue that geneticists have a particular responsibility for answering the basic questions all patients ask of medicine: why me? why this disease? why now? Today we know that many, up to several hundred, genes contribute to a specific common disorder in concert with environmental influences. But what does this really mean? What factors regulate the actions of this crowd of genes? Why those specific genes and not others? How do environmental factors impact this process? What occurs between genetic and environmental exposures and disease onset? Recent research in genetics and genomics have clarified the outlines of the fundamental processes that regulate normal physiology and are beginning to provide insight into how they are compromised in disease. This research is exciting precisely because it is providing genomic views to biology impossible before. At the same time it is raising optimism that we might understand the root causes of disease and, therefore, develop more rational therapies.

Speaker: Professor Aravinda Chakravarti, Director, Center for Complex Disease Genomics, Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Registration will be accepted for the complete series only, although spaces are transferable for individual sessions. Reservations will be accepted in the order they are received, up to the capacity limit. The series is open to MIT Alumni/ae, their guests, and all others interested in the topic. To avoid disappointment from oversubscription, we recommend early response. Federal employees may submit an approved SF

The subscription cost of the Washington Seminar Series is $320 per person for Members of the MIT Club of Washington and their guests, and $350 for non-members, which includes dinner for each session. Partners of the MIT Club can attend sessions without further cost, but must register (no substitutions allowed). To register, click the “Registration” button at the top of the page. You may also register by mail using the form below, with checks payable to "MIT Seminar Series" and mailed to:

Mr. Ray Daniels
MIT Seminar Series
4700 Falstone Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815-5544

You will only be notified in case over-subscription prevents your reservation from being accepted.

Chairman: Kenneth Gordon, Ph.D.
Program Committee: Christine Berg, M.D., Lynn Garland, Ray Daniels, Robert Hershey, Ph.D., Michael R. Leavitt, Ph.D., John Starke, Mark Joseph, Elizabeth Carrell
Treasurer: Mark Joseph
Registration: Ray Daniels, Bernard Paiewonsky, Ph.D. .