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Science & Society: kick off
by Giuseppe Testa
30 April 2013

Over the last decades the life sciences have gained increasing prominence in the public sphere, as the exponential success of our molecular gaze on life has been opening not only new vistas of knowledge but also unprecedented options to intervene into living processes.

This has raised great hopes for better health while igniting at the same time strong controversies over the potential boundaries of techno-scientific ingenuity and the best ways to deliberate on them.

From stem cells to genetically modified organisms, from gene patents to consumer-friendly DNA tests, it is unequivocal that molecular biomedicine is the field of science that raises today the most significant questions on the relationship between scientific expertise and democratic accountability in our knowledge-intensive societies.

In parallel, the salience of these questions is heightened by the significant innovations that have reshaped the relationship between scientists, institutions and lay citizens over the past years, with the rise of new modes of engagement in the production, sharing and uptake of scientific developments.

The challenge then is to enable a productive discourse on the public salience of the life sciences, which calls in turn for innovative foundational, ethical, sociological and political analyses.

This need is captured well in the recent notion of biomedical humanities. This new approach pursues a truly interdisciplinary integration of biomedical research with humanistic disciplines, a vision that we have actualized through the establishment of an innovative training PhD program, on the philosophical foundations of the life sciences and on their ethical implications (

This unique experience has been sparking a new generation of scholars and it forms now a key node in the international network of philosophers, bioethicists and sociologists reflecting on the latest implications of the molecular life sciences.

We welcome thus the opportunity to open this series of Science & Society short essays for the ABCD website, drawing on the vast range of topics and the unique asset of interdisciplinary competences that we have been developing over the last years.

We could have followed the strategy of proposing comments on events happening in the scientific community. Actually we prefer to offer humanistic “pills” independent of daily news but closely related to the contemporary way of doing biological and biomedical research. For our main aim is to create a reflection space on how biology and biomedicine are developing and on what they and imply for society.

University of Milan/European Institute of Oncology
Our lab studies the epigenetics of cell fate programming and reprogramming, including the use of reprogramming-based modeling for cancer and neurodevelopmental disorders.