Biomedical Pioneers Jim Collins ’87 and Richard Murphy ’66 to Headline Holy Cross Lecture Series on Science and Values

September 23rd, 2013 by 

Bioengineer James J. Collins ’87 and neuroscientist Richard A. Murphy ’66, both Holy Cross graduates, and pharmaceutical executive Mark Murcko will speak at the College of the Holy Cross this fall as part of a yearlong lecture series on “The Practice of Science in a World of Competing Values.” The series, presented by the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at Holy Cross, is free and open to the public.

“The investments Holy Cross has made in its science program help to provide students a foundation for scientific inquiry and discovery,” said Thomas M. Landy, director of the McFarland Center. “This series, which includes two alumni who are innovating the practice of science, will help students to think about the ethical challenges of doing science today, managing expectations from government and corporate funders, and how scientific work is prioritized and reported.”

The William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, University Professor, and professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, Jim Collins will open the lecture series with a talk titled “Synthetic Biology and Redesigning Life: Hopes and Challenges” on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rehm Library, Smith Hall. Collins is a founder of the emerging field of synthetic biology, which combines biology and engineering to create circuits that can program organisms, such as bacteria, to behave a certain way. In his talk, he will review the short history and direction of synthetic biology as a field, and discuss its important ethical implications.

Richard Murphy, retired president and CEO of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and former interim president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, will deliver a lecture titled “The Changing Face of Biomedical Research: Challenges and Opportunities” on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 4:30 p.m. in Rehm Library. Murphy, who now runs a Boston-based management consulting company to support medical research, will talk about how the process of doing science has changed, and about the increasing challenges to secure government funding for research and to meet political expectations for results.

Mark Murcko, one of the founders of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and co-inventor of a number of marketed drugs and clinical candidates, will talk on “The Quest for Health: Hunting for Drugs in Large Pharmas and Tiny Biotechs” on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in Rehm Library. Murcko will focus this talk on the practice of science in different corporate settings, from big pharmaceutical companies to startups, and how they affect decisions about the kind of science that can be pursued.

Additional lectures in the series are planned for 2014. For additional information, and to find video of lectures online, visit

About the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture:

Established in 2001 and housed in Smith Hall, the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture provides resources for faculty and course development, sponsors conferences and college-wide teaching events, hosts visiting fellows, and coordinates a number of campus lecture series. Rooted in the College’s commitment to invite conversation about basic human questions, the Center welcomes persons of all faiths and seeks to foster dialogue that acknowledges and respects differences, providing a forum for intellectual exchange that is interreligious, interdisciplinary, intercultural, and international in scope.  The Center also brings members of the Holy Cross community into conversation with the Greater Worcester community, the academic community, and the wider world to examine the role of faith and inquiry in higher education and in the larger culture.

For additional information, please contact Bridget Cass at 508-793-2419.

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