DNA for Peace: The Balance Between Biosciences for Development and Security


  • Peter A. Singer

One of the world's greatest ethical challenges is the inequities in global health. Life expectancy in the United States is about 80 years and rising, while in many parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa as a result of HIV/AIDS, it is 40 years and falling. On the "bright side," the globalization of life sciences is key force to improve health in the developing world. For example, the rise of the Indian biotechnology industry has improved availability of vaccines and programs like the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provide hope for upstream discovery science against global health problems. However, on the "dark side," the globalization of life sciences poses risks to global biosecurity including bioterrorism by non-state actors.

This lecture will explore how to optimize the benefits of the "bright side," and mitigate the risks of the "dark side," of the globalization of life sciences. Dr. Singer will argue that the biological case is different from the nuclear case and demands a different approach, and explore the potential role of the United Nations in enhancing global biosecurity.

Peter A. Singer is senior scientist at the McLaughlin Rotman Centre, University Health Network; professor of medicine, University of Toronto; co-director of the Canadian Program in Genomics and Global Health; and a distinguished investigator of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He studied internal medicine at the University of Toronto, medical ethics at the University of Chicago, public health at Yale University, and management at Harvard Business School. Between 1995 and 2006, Singer was Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics, director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto.