Tuesday, November 12, 2013 -
5:00pm to 7:00pm
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Science Center - Auditorium D, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge

Science and Democracy Lecture Series

Chris Hansen, American Civil Liberties Union, "Dis-Owning Nature: The BRCA Gene Patents and the Supreme Court"

George M. Church, Harvard Medical School and Broad Institute
Glenn Cohen, Harvard Law School
Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves
Tania Simoncelli, Former Science Advisor, ACLU

Moderated by:
Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Chris Hansen, who successfully argued the case against human gene patenting before the Supreme Court on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will present “Dis-Owning Nature: the BRCA Gene Patents and the Supreme Court.” This landmark case overturned prior assumptions about patentability that many believed were securely entrenched in law and practice. With the aid of four distinguished panelists, Hansen will discuss how a winning strategy was forged in a case that many considered unwinnable. The program will also address issues about the ethics of patenting biological materials, the role of public interest organizations such as the ACLU, and the implications of intellectual property law for the life sciences and technologies.

Chris Hansen joined the ACLU in 1973. He spent 10 years at the NYCLU specializing in complex litigation seeking reform of the mental retardation and mental health systems. He then spent 10 years as the Associate Director of the Children’s Rights Project of the ACLU specializing in complex litigation seeking reform of child welfare systems and in school desegregation. Since the mid-1990’s, Mr. Hansen has been a staff attorney at the ACLU and worked on a wide variety of cases. He led the ACLU’s decades-long, successful battle to ensure that speech on the Internet receive the highest First Amendment protection. Most recently, he led the ACLU’s effort to invalidate patents granted on human genes. Mr. Hansen has argued cases in the US Supreme Court, and many of the federal courts of appeals, federal district courts, and state trial and appellate courts. Mr. Hansen retired from the ACLU in 2013.

 This event is organized by the Program on Science, Technology, and Society, at the Harvard Kennedy School and co-sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Graduate School of Design, and the Harvard University Center for the Environment.  For more information on Science, Technology, and Society events at Harvard University, please visit: This lecture and discussion is free and open to the public.

Contact Name: 

Shana Rabinowich

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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