Posted by William Nunnelley on 2010-10-04

Dr. Kevin Davies, the British science writer and author of several books on the human genome, will deliver the annual J. Roderick Davis Lecture Thursday, Oct. 14.  The 7:30 p.m. lecture in Wright Center is open to the public free.  The lectureship, named for the former Samford arts and sciences dean, brings an influential writer to campus each fall to discuss an important social issue.

Davis wrote the 2001 book, Cracking the Genome, which chronicled efforts to complete the genetic code.  The book explored the history of the what Davis described as the “greatest scientific discovery of our time,” as well as the personalities involved and the prospects and pitfalls of genetic research based on knowing the genetic code. 

The founder of the genetics research journal, Nature Genetics, Davies recently published The $1,000 Genome, a book that explores the remarkable growth of personal genomics, which enables consumers to learn information about their health risks and ancestry from their own DNA and the emergence of next-generation technologies that soon will make human genome sequencing routine for about $1,000. 

Davies studied biochemistry at St. Peter’s College, Oxford University, and earned his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of London before moving to the U.S. to pursue further research.  He holds postdoctoral fellowships in Boston at the Whitehead Institute and Harvard Medical School.  

 As part of the Davis Lecture schedule, Samford will hold two preliminary programs on the genome and genetics testing. 

A “Genetics Debate” is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. in Brock Recital Hall.  Dr. Michael Janas, associate professor of communications, and Abi Williams, debate coach and instructor in communication studies, will debate issues related to genetics. 

A panel discussion on “Biotechnology, the Genome and Genetic Testing: Biomedical and Ethical Issues” will be held Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. in Brock Forum.  Panelists will be Dr. Bruce Korf, chairman, department of genetics, University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Medicine; Dr. Bradley Dennis, medical director, Brookwood Hospital; Dr. George Keller, moderator, associate professor, biological and environmental sciences, Samford; Dr. David Johnson, professor, biological and environmental sciences, Samford; and Dr. Dennis Sansom, chair, department of philosophy, Samford. 

Dr. David Chapman, dean of Samford’s Howard College of Arts and Sciences, which sponsors the lectureship,  noted that “many people are concerned about the future of genetic research.”  He added, “Although we are excited about the possibility of curing diseases and correcting genetic defects, we are also fearful of genetic engineering that seems to be tampering with nature.”  This year’s Davis Lecture “will be an opportunity to discuss all these questions and consider their physical and moral implications,” he said.