The Forum for Genetic Research is mandated to address current developments in genetic research and its implications for society, and to foster communication and exchange between scientists, decision makers and society. The Forum takes up questions from citizens and politicians on various applications of genetic research results and considers them in a fact-based and nuanced manner. The Forum enganges in political and societal processes and informs on topics of future relevance. The state of knowledge is made available by providing experts, by organizing and by informational material. Besides scientific aspects, technical as well as knowledge from human and social play an important role.
During the last years, the Forum for Genetic Research has addressed the following topics, amongst others:
- Molecular plant breeding techniques
- Gene Drives
- Synthetic biology
- Personalize Health
- Covid-19 vaccines
- Biosecurity and Dual-Use in biological research
In order to treat the subjects of interest from as broad a perspective as possible, the Forum for Genetic Research choses an interdisciplinary approach – both in terms of its composition and its functioning. The Forum brings together experts from molecular biology, genetics, plant sciences, biomedicine, biosafety, intellectual property as well as social sciences and ethics. Depending on the subject of interest, the Forum for Genetic Research consults additional experts from within the Academies or from its network, in Switzerland and abroad. The members of the Forum are supported by the scientific unit.
The Forum for Genetic Research is part of the Platform Science & Policy (SAP) of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT).
The Forum for Genetic Research was created in 1996 by the Swiss Academy of Sciences (called SCNAT since 2004) with the aim to contribute to the public debate launched by « Gene protection initiative », which was voted on in june 1998. The Forum then received the mission to provide scientific information – as objectively and finely nuanced as possibly – and as plate-form for discussion.
Until today, the activities of the Forum have evolved in the rhythm of its five presidencies – each characterized by specific directions and priorities, determined by developments in genetic research and their implications at a scientific, social, educational, political, legal and ethical level.
The five presidencies and their priorities could be summarized as follows :
- Martine Jotterand (January 1996 - July 1999):
perception, implications for society and ethics, dialogue between biological sciences and humanities
- Daniel Schümperli (August 1999 - February 2004):
risks, safetty, legislation, proposal for a national research project
- Sandro Rusconi (Marc 2004 - March 2009):
patentability, synthetic biology, biofarming, natural/artificial
- Patrick Matthias (April 2009 - December 2020):
genetic engineering for agriculture, synthetic biology, « dual use » dilemma, genome editing, personalized health
- Alexandre Reymond (since January 2021)