Giuseppe Testa holds an MD from the University of Perugia, a PhD from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, and an MA in Health Care Ethics and Law from the University of Manchester. His unique accomplishment is the successful pursuit of a parallel career as practicing life scientist and scholar in Bioethics and Science and Technology Studies (STS).
A twice European Research Council (ERC) awardee, Giuseppe Testa is Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Milan and Principal Investigator at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan where he heads the Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics focusing on epigenetic regulation, cell reprogramming and disease-modeling in cancer and neurodevelopmental disoders. He has published in leading journals including Nature Genetics, Nature Communications, Nature Methods, Nature Biotechnology, Cell, Cell Stem Cell, Cell Reports, Science, PLoS Genetics, Biosocieties, Journal of Medical Ethics, New Genetics and Society. In 2006 he co-founded the interdisciplinary PhD program of the European School of Molecular Medicine on ‘Foundations and Ethics of the Life Sciences’, the first example of a thoroughly interdisciplinary PhD across the life sciences and the humanities. His first book ‘Naked genes: Reinventing the Human in the Molecular Age’, co-authored with Helga Nowotny, published in German, English and Italian was widely acclaimed in the leading international press. He serves on several research networks and academic societies, including the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), the International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC), the European Bank for induced pluripotent Stem Cells (EBiSC), the Italian Society of Cell Biology and Differentiation (ABCD) and the Research Ethics and Bioethics Committee of the National Research Council (CNR). He is member of the editorial board of Stem Cell Reports, the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Medical Ethics and is the recipient of several scientific prizes, including in 2003 the Roche Prize for leading bioscientist of the next decade. His next book ‘Bioemocrazie e digitalizzazione del vivente’ (Digitizing Humanness across Scales of Life and Power) is forthcoming with Feltrinelli in 2017.
Our biologies are increasingly unfolding within multiple parallel worlds, propelled through the convergence of two streams of innovation: the digitisation of living forms, and the digitisation of our forms of knowledge and sociality.
The biotechnological toolkit allows in fact to study biological phenomena more and more as integrations of digital data and/or through digitized forms of life, populating distinct yet increasingly interconnected spaces. From genomes to epigenomes, from cells to organs, from single neurons to connectomes, from organisms to ecosystems, all more or less classically defined levels of biological organization and inquiry are now amenable to the digitizing ambition of the life sciences. This digital gaze renders all such levels mesurable and compatible with each other as representations of our health, traits and disease states, avatars of virtually all aspects of the human condition that are being progressively domesticated as objects of inquiry and experimentation.
All the while, the pervasive digitisation of our knowledge and relationships is yielding just as many avatars of human sociality, in a public sphere that becomes an increasingly transparent intersection of spaces hitherto considered eminently private: the profiles of our consumption, the traces of our ideas and emotions, the patterns and locations of our exposed lives that have come to represent the increasingly fragmented projections of our selves.
I probe the increasingly mutual constitution of these two digital reconfigurations of humanness, introducing the notion of scale as an innovative tool for policy-relevant theorizing and engagement, for scientists and lay publics alike.