An extremely important scientific revolution is taking place with the discovery and development of a gene-editing technology termed CRISPR-Cas9. With this tool, the genomes of various organisms can now be edited with unprecedented specificity and simplicity of use. This opens many possibilities for basic research. It also enables the development of numerous applications in biomedicine, agriculture, in addition to offering novel ways of tackling environmental challenges. The potential implications for the further evolution of species, including our own, as well as for our relationship to nature are profound. Thus, the ongoing scientific revolution opens up questions of safety and ethical responsibility, invokes issues of ownership and social justice, and raises the question of how we can collectively steer research practices towards desirable futures. We believe that decisions on when, where and for what purpose this technology will be applied are also political, not least in terms of their consequences. Thus, directing this discovery towards responsible applications and desirable futures, cannot be left to the sole responsibility of scientists, experts and the industry.

This international symposium aims to discuss the potential impact and challenges while exploring the scientific, ethical, and societal issues inherent in genome-editing research. Inputs by key-note speakers, the presentation of three scenarios where the application of CRISPR is envisioned, interdisciplinary panels, as well as formats encouraging the interaction of the audience with speakers will promote engagement through dialogue.

Specifically, we would like to:
  • host an open dialogue between the scientific community (ranging from life scientists, to social scientists, and beyond) and civil society, discussing ongoing applications of the CRISPR technology, expected and envisioned developments, and the benefits, caveats and consequences of this technology’s applications;
  • provide a platform for public engagement on this topic, enabling researchers involved in the CRISPR field to interact with citizens, regulators, and stakeholders;
  • raise these issues in a European context, in order to facilitate the development of a European engagement with this revolution.

We invite scientists and researchers from the social sciences and humanities, regulators and stakeholders, as well as interest groups and citizens to join the conversation about this ongoing scientific revolution, engaging with us in an open dialogue towards common desirable futures and explore the means and instruments that help to achieve them.


October 19, 2017

13.00 - 13.15: Opening
Ulrike Felt and Melina Kerou (Uni Vienna)

13.15 - 15.00: CRISPR/Cas9: A brief history and potential futures
Moderator: Christa Schleper (Uni Vienna)

  • Keynote: Krzysztof Chylinski (Vienna BioCenter)
  • Students groups: Cornelius Heimstadt, Logan Hodgkiss, Michael Melcher; Sarah Bieszczad, Anna Müller, Artemis Papadaki-Anastasopoulou, Phoebe Maares and Philipp Weber; Kaya Akyüz, Florian Ebner, Elena Galimberti, Kevin Pfeifer (all Uni Vienna)

15.30-17.00: Round table 1: Genome editing between risk, precaution and ethics
Moderator: Ingrid Metzler (Uni Vienna)

  • Jim Dratwa (European Commission), Christiane Druml (Medical University of Vienna, Chair of the Austrian Bioethics Commission), Nikolai Windbichler (Imperial College London) and Kikue Tachibana-Konwalski (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Vienna)

17.30- 19.00: Evening event: CRISPR in society: promises, hopes, and responsibilities
Moderator: Renee Schröder (Max F. Perutz Laboratories, Vienna)


  • Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard)
  • Stuart Newman (NewYork Medical College)

Followed by wine and cheese

October 20, 2017

9.00 - 9.30: Food for thought: public voices
Ulrike Felt, Sarah Bieszczad and Ingrid Metzler (Uni Vienna)

9.30 - 11.00: Round table 2: Patenting - and what about social justice?
Moderator: Maximilian Fochler (Uni Vienna)

  • Shobita Parthasarathy (University of Michigan), Ingrid Kelly (Uni Vienna), Christoph Then (Test Biotech, Munich) and Barbara Prainsack (Uni Vienna)

11.30 - 13.00: Round table 3: Genome editing and the commons: Who takes care?
Moderator: Katerina Anastasiou (transform! europe)

  • Giuseppe Testa (European Institute of Oncology, Milan), Alexandra Ribartis (AGES, Vienna), Karin Garber (Open Science, Vienna) and Peter Schlögelhofer (Max F. Perutz Laboratories, Vienna)

Lunch break

14.15 - 16.00: Closing Panel: Envisioning (un-) desirable futures
Moderator: Ulrike Felt (Uni Vienna)

  • Heidemarie Porstner (Global 2000), Theodora Kotsaka (transform!europe; Nicos Poulantzas Institute, Athens), Florian Grebien (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research, Vienna) and Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard)

Our speakers include:

  • Krzysztof Chylinski (Vienna BioCenter)
  • Jim Dratwa (European Commission, Head of the Office of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies)
  • Christiane Druml (UNESCO Chair on Bioethics at the Medical University of Vienna and Chair of the Austrian Bioethics Commission)
  • Ulrike Felt (Research Platform Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice, University of Vienna)
  • Karin Garber (Managing Director of „Open Science“, Vienna)
  • Florian Grebien (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research, Vienna)
  • Sheila Jasanoff (Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School)
  • Ingrid Kelly (Research Services and Career Development, University of Vienna)
  • Theodora Kotsaka (Nicos Poulantzas Institute, Athens)
  • Stuart Newman (Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College)
  • Shobita Parthasarathy (Associate Professor of Public Policy and Women's Studies, and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, University of Michigan)
  • Heidemarie Porstner (Gentechnik-/GMO-Campaigner, GLOBAL 2000 – Friends of the Earth Austria)
  • Barbara Prainsack (Department of Political Science, University of Vienna)
  • Alexandra Ribartis (AGES, Vienna)
  • Peter Schlögelhofer (Associate Professor at the Department of Chromosome Biology, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna)
  • Renée Schroeder (Max Perutz Laboratories, Vienna)
  • Giuseppe Testa (Head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics, European Institute for Oncology, Milan)
  • Kikue Tachibana-Konwalski (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Vienna)
  • Christoph Then (Testbiotech, Munich)
  • Nikolai Windbichler (Research Fellow, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London

Event Location

The workshop will take place in the Festsaal of the "Billlrothhaus".

Das Billrothhaus der
Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien
Frankgasse 8
1090 Vienna

How to get there - click here



Team of organizers

Department of Ecogenomics and Systems Biology
(Melina Kerou, Christa Schleper, and Isabelle Zink)

Department of Science and Technology Studies
(Sarah Bieszczad and Ingrid Metzler)

Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
(Renée Schroeder)

Platform Responsible Research and Innovation and Department of Science and Technology Studies
(Ulrike Felt and Corinna Wegscheider)

transform! europe
(Katerina Anastasiou)


The symposium is enabled by funding provided by the Research Platform "Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice",  the "Department of Ecogenomics and Systems Biology", the "DK RNA Biology" and the "Department of Science and Technology Studies", all at the University of Vienna as well as “transform! europe”, “KLI” and "WTZ Ost".


There is no registration fee. However, to register please email crispr@univie.ac.at by October the 13th, 2017.