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BIO 85 — Designer Biology: The Science, Technology, and Promise of Genetic Engineering

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Feb 6—Mar 13
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Feb 19
Unit: 1
Tuition: $355
Instructor(s): Lamia Wahba
Status: Open
7:00—8:50 pm
Feb 6—Mar 13
6 weeks
Drop By
Feb 19
1 Unit
Lamia Wahba
What happens when biology—specifically its genetic code, the fundamental building block driving the birth-to-death lifecycle of all living beings— becomes easily programmable by humans? Genetic engineering is the science of making deliberate changes in the genome of organisms, in order to produce a desired change in biological characteristics. Such manipulations, often called “designer biology,” hold the promise of significantly impacting fundamental human challenges—warding off human diseases, improving global food security, creating novel sources for renewable energy, and perhaps even reanimating extinct species. In recent decades, scientists have discovered and built a powerful set of gene-editing technologies that have made the promise of designer biology more likely than ever before. In this course, we will explore the basics of genomes and the engineering tools used to modify them. After a brief tour of genetics and how genes are packaged and organized into genomes, we will cover the fundamentals of editing tools, discussing what they are and how they work. We will then dive into the new cutting-edge applications of these tools and discuss how they’re being used to provide last-ditch cancer treatments, treat autism-spectrum disorders, and even (reportedly) edit embryos. We will end with a discussion of challenges and hurdles—both technical and ethical—associated with genome editing.

Lamia Wahba, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Pathology, Stanford School of Medicine

Lamia Wahba works in the lab of Andrew Fire, professor of pathology and genetics, investigating how small RNAs impact our genes. She has taught a course on gene expression and pathways at UC Santa Cruz Extension. Prior to coming to Stanford, she completed graduate work in genetics at UC Berkeley. She received a PhD in biology from Johns Hopkins.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.