15:11
TEDxMidAtlantic

Nina Fedoroff: A secret weapon against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases

ニーナ・フェドロフ: ジカ熱などの蚊媒介感染症に対抗する秘密兵器

Filmed:

ジカ熱はどこから来て我々はそれにどう対処できるのでしょう? 分子生物学者ニーナ・フェドロフはジカ熱の起源とそれが世界的に伝播した経緯を追い、ウイルスやその他の致命的な病気を抑制するための物議を醸す方法を提案します—感染した蚊が増えるのを防ぐのです。

- Molecular biologist
Nina Fedoroff writes and lectures about the history and science of genetically modified organisms. Full bio

Zika fever:
ジカ熱 ―
00:13
our newest dread disease.
最新の恐ろしい病気です
00:16
What is it? Where'd it come from?
それは何でしょう?
どこから来たのでしょう?
00:19
What do we do about it?
どう対処すれば?
00:22
Well for most adults,
it's a relatively mild disease --
それは 多くの大人にとっては
比較的軽い疾患です
00:25
a little fever, a little headache,
joint pain, maybe a rash.
微熱 軽い頭痛
関節痛 発疹も出るかも
00:28
In fact, most people who get it
don't even know they've had it.
実際 それに罹ったほとんどの人は
気付きもしないでしょう
00:33
But the more we find out
about the Zika virus
しかし ジカ熱ウイルスについて
知れば知るほど
00:36
the more terrifying it becomes.
恐ろしさは増して来ます
00:40
For example, doctors
have noticed an uptick
例えば 最近この疾患が流行した時
医師たちは
00:42
of something called Guillain-Barré
syndrome in recent outbreaks.
ギラン・バレー症候群と呼ばれるものの
頻発に気づきました
00:45
In Guillain-Barré, your immune system
attacks your nerve cells
ギラン・バレー症候群では
あなたの免疫系が神経細胞を攻撃し
00:49
it can partially
or even totally paralyze you.
あなたを部分的にあるいは完全に
麻痺させてしまうことがあります
00:52
Fortunately, that's quite rare,
and most people recover.
幸いなことに それは非常に稀で
ほとんどの人は回復します
00:56
But if you're pregnant
when you're infected
でも もしあなたが妊娠している時に
感染したのなら
01:00
you're at risk of something terrible.
あなたは恐ろしい危険に晒されています
01:05
Indeed, a child with a deformed head.
奇形の頭部を持つ赤ちゃんです
01:08
Here's a normal baby.
こちらが普通の赤ちゃんで
01:12
Here's that infant
with what's called microcephaly.
こちらが小頭症の幼児です
01:15
a brain in a head that's too small.
脳に対して頭が小さすぎるのです
01:19
And there's no known cure.
そして 治療法はまだありません
01:22
It was actually doctors
in northeastern Brazil
ちょうど1年前
ブラジル北東部で
01:25
who first noticed, just a year ago,
after a Zika outbreak,
ジカ熱の勃発後に
小頭症の発生率が
01:30
that there was a peak
in the incidence of microcephaly.
急上昇したのに
最初に気付いたのは医師でした
01:36
It took medical doctors another year
それがジカ熱ウイルスが原因だと
01:40
to be sure that it was caused
by the Zika virus,
医師たちが確認するまで
もう1年を要しましたが
01:42
but they're now sure.
彼らは今確信しています
01:45
And if you're a "bring on
the evidence" type,
「証拠を見るまで信じない」タイプの方は
こちらをどうぞ
01:46
check out this publication.
[ジカウイルスと先天性異常]
01:49
So where did it come from,
and how did it get here?
それは どこからどのようにして
来たのでしょうか?
01:51
And it is here.
アメリカまで
01:54
Like many of our viruses,
it came out of Africa,
他のウイルスの多くと同じく
それは アフリカで発生しました
01:56
specifically the Zika forest in Uganda.
具体的にはウガンダのジカ森です
01:59
Researchers at the nearby
Yellow Fever Research Institute
付近にある黄熱病研究所の研究者たちが
02:03
identified an unknown virus
in a monkey in the Zika forest
ジカ森のサルから未知のウイルスを検出し
02:08
which is how it got its name.
この名前がつけられました
02:12
The first human cases of Zika fever
最初に人が感染したジカ熱の症例が
02:15
surfaced a few years later
in Uganda-Tanzania.
数年後にウガンダ・タンザニアに現れました
02:17
The virus then spread through West Africa
ウイルスはその後
西アフリカ中に広がりました
02:21
and east through equatorial Asia --
Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia.
それから赤道アジアを通って パキスタン、
インド、マレーシア、インドネシアへと
02:25
But it was still mostly in monkeys
and, of course, mosquitoes.
しかし ほとんどはサル
そしてもちろん蚊に感染していました
02:32
In fact in the 60 years between the time
it was first identified in 1947 and 2007
それが最初に同定された1947年から
2007年までの60年間で
02:37
there were only 13 reported cases
of human Zika fever.
人間がジカ熱に罹ったという
報告例はたった13件でした
02:43
And then something extraordinary happened
on the tiny Micronesian Yap islands.
そして ミクロネシアのヤップという小島で
ある異常な事態が発生しました
02:47
There was an outbreak that affected
fully 75 percent of the population.
人口の75パーセントが影響を受けた
感染症大流行(アウトブレイク)です
02:53
How did it get there? By air.
ウイルスはどうやって辿り着いたのでしょう?
空路です
02:59
Today we have two billion
commercial airline passengers.
こんにち 民間航空会社の
利用客は20億人います
03:03
An infected passenger can board a plane,
fly halfway around the world
感染した乗客が飛行機に乗り
症状を発症するまでに
03:07
before developing symptoms --
if they develop symptoms at all.
世界を半周することだってあります
症状が出たとして ですが
03:11
Then when they land, the local mosquitoes
begin to bite them and spread the fever.
そして 乗客が上陸すると
地元の蚊によりジカ熱が広まり始めます
03:16
Zika fever then next surfaced
in 2013 in French Polynesia.
ジカ熱は その後
2013年にフランス領ポリネシアで発生し
03:21
By December of that year, it was being
transmitted locally by the mosquitoes.
同年の12月までに
蚊によって局地的に感染していました
03:27
That led to an explosive outbreak in which
almost 30,000 people were affected.
それは爆発的な流行につながり
およそ3万人が影響を受け
03:33
From there it radiated around the Pacific.
そしてそこから 太平洋中に広まりました
03:38
There were outbreaks in the Cook
Islands, in New Caledonia,
クック諸島や ニューカレドニアや
03:40
in Vanuatu, in the Solomon Islands
バヌアツや ソロモン諸島
03:45
and almost all the way around to the coast
of South America and Easter Island.
そして 南米の沿岸地域やイースター島に
至る範囲でアウトブレイクが起こりました
03:48
And then, in early 2015,
そして 2015年初頭に
03:53
there was an upsurge of cases
of a dengue-like syndrome
デング熱のような症候群の
急増が見られました
03:56
in the city of Natal
in northeastern Brazil.
ブラジル北東部にある
ナタールの街です
04:01
The virus wasn't dengue, it was Zika,
and it spread rapidly --
ウイルスは デング熱ではなく
ジカ熱で 急速に広まりました
04:05
Recife down the coast, a big metropolitan
center, soon became the epicenter.
海沿いにあるブラジルの大都市
レシフェはすぐに感染の中心地となりました
04:11
Well people have speculated that it was
2014 World Cup soccer fans
人々は国内にウイルスをもたらしたのは
2014年のワールドカップの
04:17
that brought the virus into the country.
サッカーファンだったと推測しました
04:23
But others have speculated that perhaps
it was Pacific Islanders
あるいはその年リオで開催された
カヌーレースのチャンピオンシップに
04:25
participating in championship canoe races
参加した太平洋諸島の住民が
04:29
that were held in Rio that year
that brought it in.
伝染病をもたらしたと考えた人もいました
04:32
Well today, this is only a year later.
それからたった1年しか経っていませんが
04:35
The virus is being locally transmitted
by mosquitoes
このウイルスは各地域で
蚊によって媒介されています
04:39
virtually throughout South America,
Central America, Mexico
南米全域、
中央アメリカ、メキシコ
04:43
and the Caribbean Islands
そしてカリブ海諸島です
04:46
Until this year, the many
thousands of cases
今年までは 米国での
数千に及ぶ診断例は
04:48
that have been diagnosed in the US
were contracted elsewhere.
他の場所で感染したものでしたが
04:52
But as of this summer, it's being
transmitted locally in Miami.
この夏から マイアミでは
域内の感染が認められています
04:57
It's here.
国内感染です
05:02
So what do we do about it?
どうしたら良いでしょう?
05:03
Well, preventing infection
感染症の予防というのは
05:05
is either about protecting people
or about eliminating the mosquitoes.
人々を守るか
蚊を駆除するかのどちらかです
05:10
Let's focus on people first.
まず人々に焦点を当ててみましょう
05:14
You can get vaccinated.
予防接種という手段があります
05:16
You can not travel to Zika areas.
ジカ熱の発生している地域に
行かないようにすることもできます
05:19
Or you can cover up
and apply insect repellent.
もしくは 服で防御したり
虫除けを使ったり
05:23
Getting vaccinated is not an option,
because there isn't a vaccine yet
ワクチンはまだ無いので
予防接種は選べません
05:26
and there probably won't be
for a couple of years.
おそらく今後数年間はできないでしょう
05:30
Staying home isn't
a foolproof protection either
自宅に閉じこもるのも
確実な方法ではありません
05:33
because we now know that
it can be sexually transmitted.
性的接触でも感染するからです
05:37
Covering up and applying
insect repellent does work ...
服で皮膚を覆い
虫除けを塗布するのは効果的です
05:42
until you forget.
忘れなければですが
05:45
(Laughter)
(笑)
05:47
So that leaves the mosquitoes,
and here's how we control them now:
だから蚊を駆除するという手段が残され
その方法は次のとおり
05:49
spraying insecticides.
殺虫剤の散布です
05:53
The protective gear is necessary
because these are toxic chemicals
殺虫剤は有毒化学物質なので
防護服が必要です
05:56
that kill people as well as bugs.
虫だけでなく 人も死んでしまうので
06:00
Although it does take quite a lot more
to kill a person than to kill a bug.
それでも虫を殺すよりも
多い量が必要ですが
06:02
These are pictures from
Brazil and Nicaragua.
これらはブラジルと
ニカラグアからの写真ですが
06:06
But it looks the same in Miami, Florida.
フロリダ州マイアミでも光景は同じです
06:10
And we of course can spray
insecticides from planes.
そしてもちろん
飛行機からも殺虫剤は散布できます
06:13
Last summer, mosquito control officials
in Dorchester County, South Carolina,
昨年の夏 サウスカロライナ州
ドーチェスター郡で害虫防除職員が
06:19
authorized spraying of Naled,
an insecticide,
ある日 メーカーが推奨する通りに
「ナレド」という殺虫剤を
06:25
early one morning,
as recommended by the manufacturer.
散布することを許可しました
06:29
Later that day, a beekeeper told reporters
その日の午後 ある養蜂家が
記者団にこう語りました
06:32
that her bee yard looked
like it had been nuked.
彼女の養蜂場が
壊滅的打撃を受けたと
06:37
Oops.
まずいですね
06:41
Bees are the good guys.
ミツバチは良い生き物です
06:43
The citizens of Florida protested,
but spraying continued.
フロリダ州の市民が抗議しましたが
散布は続き
06:45
Unfortunately, so did the increase
in the number of Zika fever cases.
残念ながら ジカ熱症例数の増加も続きました
06:53
That's because insecticides
aren't very effective.
殺虫剤はあまり効果的ではないからです
06:58
So are there any approaches that are
perhaps more effective than spraying
ならば有毒化学物質よりも害が少なく
おそらく殺虫剤よりも効果的な
07:02
but with less downsides
than toxic chemicals?
アプローチが他にあるのでは?
07:10
I'm a huge fan of biological controls,
私は 生物的害虫防除の大ファンで
07:16
and I share that view with Rachel Carson,
author of "Silent Spring,"
これについては環境運動の発端となったと
言われる「沈黙の春」の著者
07:19
the book that is credited with starting
the environmental movement.
レイチェル・カーソンも同じ意見です
07:24
In this book she tells the story,
as an example,
この本の中で 彼女は一例として
07:29
of how a very nasty insect
pest of livestock
どのように非常に厄介な
家畜の害虫が
07:32
was eliminated in the last century.
前世紀に駆逐されたかを解説しています
07:38
No one knows that
extraordinary story today.
こんにち その驚くべき物語を
知る人はいません
07:42
So Jack Block and I,
when we were writing an editorial
それで [ジョン]・ブロックと私で社説に
07:44
about the mosquito problem today,
retold that story.
現在の蚊の問題について書いた時に
再びこの話をしました
07:48
And in capsule form, it's that pupae --
that's the immature form of the insect --
カプセルの中に蛹を入れ―
蛹とは未熟な昆虫です
07:52
were irradiated until they were sterile,
grown to adulthood
放射線照射で子供を産めなくし
成体まで成長させると
07:56
and then released from planes
all over the Southwest,
その後 飛行機から
南西部へ放たれ
08:01
the Southeast and down into Mexico
and into Central America
南西部からメキシコへ
そして中央アメリカに
08:05
literally by the hundreds of millions
from little airplanes,
文字通り 何億もの
小さな飛行機から放たれた虫は
08:09
eventually eliminating
that terrible insect pest
最終的に西半球のほとんどから
その恐ろしい害虫を
08:13
for most of the Western Hemisphere.
一掃しました
08:18
Our real purpose in writing this editorial
この社説を書いた真の意図は
こんにちでは
08:22
was to introduce readers
to how we can do that today --
放射線でなく 遺伝学の知識を使って
行うことができることを
08:24
not with radiation
but with our knowledge of genetics.
読者に紹介することでした
08:27
Let me explain.
説明しましょう
08:32
This is the bad guy: Aedes aegypti.
ネッタイシマカが問題の昆虫です
08:33
It's the most common insect
vector of diseases,
これは 最も一般的な
病原媒介生物です
08:36
not just Zika but dengue,
Chikungunya, West Nile virus
ジカ熱だけでなく、デング熱、
チクングニヤ、西ナイルウイルス、
08:41
and that ancient plague, yellow fever.
古代のペストである黄熱病も
媒介します
08:44
It's an urban mosquito,
都市に生息する蚊で
08:48
and it's the female
that does the dirty work.
手を汚すのはメスです
08:50
She bites to get a blood meal
to feed her offspring.
メスは子どものために
人を刺し血を吸いますが
08:54
Males don't bite; they don't even
have the mouth parts to bite.
オスは人を刺しません
噛むための機能も持っていません
09:00
A little British company called Oxitec
genetically modified that mosquito
Oxitecという 英国の小さな会社は
その蚊の遺伝子を組み換え
09:04
so that when it mates with a wild female,
its eggs don't develop to adulthood.
それが野生のメスと交尾しても
生まれた卵が成長しないようにしました
09:10
Let me show you.
こういうことです
09:17
This is the normal reproductive cycle.
これは正常な生殖周期です
09:18
Oxitec designed the mosquito so that
when the male mates with the wild female
Oxitecはオスが野生のメスと
交尾をした後も卵が孵化しないように
09:21
the eggs don't develop.
蚊をデザインしました
09:27
Sounds impossible?
不可能に聞こえますか?
09:28
Well let me show you
just diagrammatically how they do it.
図式的にご説明しましょう
09:30
Now this represents the nucleus
of a mosquito cell,
さて これは
蚊細胞の核を表し
09:34
and that tangle in the middle
represents its genome,
真ん中のもつれは
そのゲノム
09:38
the sum total of its genes.
その遺伝子の全てです
09:40
Scientists added a single gene
科学者たちは 遺伝子を1つ
これに加えました
09:43
that codes for a protein represented
by this orange ball
このオレンジ色のボールで表される
タンパク質をコードし
09:46
that feeds back on itself
to keep cranking out more of that protein.
そのタンパク質は自らを生み出し続け
ゲノムにフィードバックし続けます
09:51
The extra copies, however,
go and gum up the mosquitoes' genes,
そして余分なコピーは
蚊の遺伝子にくっつき
09:57
killing the organism.
その蚊を殺します
10:02
To keep it alive in the laboratory
they use a compound called tetracycline.
実験室で蚊を生かしたままにするために
テトラサイクリンという化合物を使います
10:04
Tetracycline shuts off that gene
and allows normal development.
テトラサイクリンは その遺伝子を抑制し
通常の発育を可能にします
10:08
They added another little wrinkle
so that they could study what happens.
何が起きるかを調べるための
ちょっとした細工も加えてありました
10:14
And that is they added a gene
that makes the insect glow under UV light
紫外線の下で虫が光るような遺伝子を
加えたのです
10:18
so that when they released it
they could follow exactly how far it went
それで蚊を正確に追跡できるようになり
10:25
how long it lived
and all of the kinds of data
どのくらいの時間生きたかなどの
科学的研究データを
10:29
for a good scientific study.
集められるようになりました
10:32
Now this is the pupal stage,
and at this stage
さて これは蛹の段階です
10:35
the females are larger than the males.
この段階では
メスはオスよりも大きいので
10:39
That allows them to sort them
into the males and the females
メスとオスを区別でき
10:42
and they allow only the males
to grow to adulthood.
オスのみが成虫まで育てられます
10:46
And let me remind you
that males don't bite.
さて オスは噛まないことを
思い出してください
10:51
From there it's pretty simple.
そこからはかなり単純です
10:53
They take beakers full of male mosquitoes,
彼らは オスの蚊でいっぱいのビーカーを取り
10:55
load them into milk cartons,
and drive around the city,
牛乳パックに詰めて
車で運び
10:58
releasing them guided by GPS.
GPSに導かれて蚊たちを街中に放ちます
11:01
Here's the mayor of a city
releasing the first batch
「友好的なヤブカ 」の
11:04
of what they call the "friendly Aedes."
最初のバッチを放っているのは市長です
11:07
Now I wish I could tell you
this is an American city, but it's not.
これがアメリカの都市だと
言いたいところですが 違います
11:10
It's Piracicaba, Brazil.
ブラジルのピラシカバです
11:13
The amazing thing is that in just a year
驚くべきことは その1年で
11:16
it brought down the cases
of dengue by 91 percent.
デング熱を91パーセントも減らしたのです
11:20
That's better than any insecticide
spraying can do.
これは どんな殺虫剤よりも効果的です
11:26
So why aren't we using this remarkable
biological control in the US?
ではなぜ私たちは米国でこの優れた
生物的駆除策を用いていないのでしょう?
11:30
That's because it's a GMO:
a genetically modified organism.
それが遺伝的に改変された生物
「遺伝子組み換え生物」だからです
11:35
Notice the subtitle here says
if the FDA would let them
このサブタイトルを見てください
「アメリカ食品医薬品局 (FDA)が許せば
11:42
they could do the same thing here,
when Zika arrives.
ジカ熱が来たときにここでも
同じことができる」
11:47
And of course it has arrived.
そしてもちろん ジカ熱は来ました
11:50
So now I have to tell you the short form
長い長い米国における
遺伝子組み換え規制の拷問物語を
11:52
of the long, torturous story
of GM regulation in the US
ごく手短にお話ししましょう
11:56
In the US, there are three agencies that
regulate genetically modified organisms:
米国では 3つの機関が
遺伝子組み換え生物を規制しています
12:02
the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration,
アメリカ食品医薬品局 (FDA)
12:10
the EPA, the Environmental
Protection Agency,
環境保護局 (EPA)
12:12
and the USDA, US Department
of Agriculture.
そして米国農務省 (USDA)
12:14
Took these folks two years
to decide that it would be the FDA
彼らは2年かかってやっと
遺伝子組み換え蚊を規制するのは
12:18
that would regulate the genetically
modified mosquito.
FDAだという結論に達し
12:23
And they would do it as a new animal drug,
if that makes any sense.
それを新しい動物薬として扱うのが
理にかなっていると考えました
12:26
Took them another five years going back
and forth and back and forth
これは人にも環境にも
害を及ぼさないと
12:33
to convince the FDA
that this would not harm people,
FDAを説得するのに
12:36
and it would not harm the environment.
さらに5年間延々とやり取りを続け
12:42
They finally gave them, this summer,
permission to run a little test
ついにこの夏
フロリダキーズで 小規模な実験を行う
12:45
in the Florida Keys,
許可が下りました
12:50
where they had been invited years earlier
when they Keys had an outbreak of dengue.
数年前にそこでデング熱の流行が起こった際
研究で招かれた場所です
12:52
Would that it were that easy.
しかし簡単ではありませんでした
12:59
When the local residents heard
遺伝子を組み換えられた蚊の実験が
13:02
that there would be genetically modified
mosquitoes tested in their community
そこで行われる予定だと
地元住民たちが聞いたとき
13:04
some of them began to organize protests.
抗議運動を組織し始める人々も現れました
13:08
They even organized a petition on
the internet with this cuddly logo,
その上 請願書もこのカワイイロゴと
共にネットで始まって
13:11
which eventually accumulated
some 160,000 signatures
最終的に16万ほどの署名が集まり
13:17
And they demanded a referendum
彼らは投票を要求しました
13:23
which will be conducted
in just a couple of weeks
これは数週間後に実施される予定で
13:25
about whether the trials
would be permitted at all.
実験自体が認められるか否かが決まります
13:28
Well it's Miami that really needs
these better ways of controlling insects.
まあ害虫を抑制する良い方法が
本当に必要のあるのはマイアミなんですが
13:32
And there the attitudes are changing.
そして 人々の考えも変化しています
13:38
In fact, very recently a bipartisan group
of more than 60 legislators
実際ごく最近
60人以上の議員の超党派グループが
13:40
wrote to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell
保険福祉省長官
シルビア・バーウェルに
13:46
asking that she, at the Federal level,
expedite access for Florida
連邦レベルで
フロリダのこの新技術への
13:50
to this new technology.
アクセスを促すように求めました
13:55
So the bottom line is this:
つまり
13:58
biological control of harmful insects
害虫の生物的防除は
13:59
can be both more effective and
very much more environmentally friendly
有毒化学物質である
殺虫剤を使用するよりも
14:03
than using insecticides,
which are toxic chemicals.
より効果的であると同時に
より環境に優しいのです
14:08
That was true in Rachel Carson's
time; it's true today.
それはレイチェル・カーソンの時代にも
こんにちでも それが真実なのです
14:13
What's different is that we have
enormously more information
異なるのは 私たちには
遺伝学について 当時よりも
14:16
about genetics than we had then,
非常に多くの情報があるということです
14:22
and therefore more ability
to use that information
したがって その情報を
生物学的駆除に利用することが
14:24
to affect these biological controls.
以前よりもできるということです
14:29
And I hope that what I've done
is aroused your curiosity enough
そして私は十分に皆さんの好奇心を
かき立てたことを願っています
14:32
to start your own inquiry --
not into just GM mosquitoes
そして皆さんが
GM蚊だけでなく こんにち議論されている
14:37
but to the other genetically modified
organisms that are so controversial today.
他の遺伝子組み換え生物について
独自の調査を始めるように
14:42
I think if you do that, and you dig down
through all of the misinformation,
そうして情報を掘り下げ—
誤った情報や
14:49
and the marketing
有機食品業界の一部や
14:54
on the part of the organic food industry
and the Greenpeaces
グリーンピース(団体)による
マーケティング情報を越えて
14:55
and find the science,
the accurate science,
正確な科学に辿り着くと
14:59
you'll be surprised and pleased.
きっと皆さんは
驚き 喜ばれると思います
15:02
Thank you.
ありがとうございました
15:05
(Applause)
(拍手)
15:06
Translated by Eriko T.
Reviewed by Shiori Watanabe

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About the Speaker:

Nina Fedoroff - Molecular biologist
Nina Fedoroff writes and lectures about the history and science of genetically modified organisms.

Why you should listen

Nina Fedoroff serves as science adviser to several organizations, including OFW Law and the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) in Washington, DC and the Santa Fe Institute in Santa Fe, NM. With former Secretary of Agriculture Jack Block, she recently published a New York Times editorial titled "Mosquito vs. Mosquito in the Battle Over the Zika Virus."

Fedoroff was trained as a molecular biologist and geneticist at the Rockefeller University in New York City. The university awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2008 as one of its most distinguished alumni on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

Fedoroff's early scientific accomplishments include analyzing a curious enzyme that replicates the RNA genome of a tiny RNA virus and sequencing of one the first genes ever to be sequenced. On the strength of this work, she was appointed a member of the scientific staff of the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Embryology. Her most important contributions began when she met the legendary biologist Barbara McClintock in 1978. She was intrigued by McClintock’s pioneering work on transposable elements, commonly known as "jumping genes," in corn plants.

McClintock's work was purely genetic, hence Fedoroff set out to study her jumping genes at the molecular level. That meant figuring out how to clone plant genes, none of which had yet been cloned. In fact, people had begun to wonder whether plant genes could be cloned at all. Solving the technical problems, Fedoroff and her students unraveled the molecular details of how these mobile DNA sequences move and how the plants exert epigenetic control of their movement. This work led to her election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990. Her capstone book on transposable elements entitled Plant Transposons and Genome Dynamics in Evolution ,was published in 2013.

Fedoroff moved the Penn State University in 1995 as the Director of the Biotechnology Institute and Vern M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences. Here she organized a multidisciplinary graduate and research program now known as the Huck Institute of the Life Sciences. Her laboratory research shifted to understanding how plants respond to stress and how they process small regulatory RNAs from larger precursors. She also began to dance Argentine tango. And she wrote a book with science writer Nancy Marie Brown titled Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Foods.

The year 2007 was marked by two extraordinary events in Fedoroff's life. She was named a National Medal of Science laureate for 2006 and she was appointed as the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State by then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The science advisory position gave her an unexpected bully pulpit to talk about the importance of science in diplomacy, about which she was interviewed by Claudia Dreifus of the New York Times. It also gave her many opportunities to talk about genetic modification and GMOs all over the world. Realizing that development efforts would benefit from increased involvement of scientists, she organized the GKI, an NGO that builds collaborative networks around problems requiring scientific and technological input.

Completing her advisory work at the State Department in 2010, Fedoroff was recruited to the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) as a Distinguished Professor of the Life Sciences. At KAUST, Fedoroff organized a Center for Desert Agriculture, seeking to address the difficulties facing agriculture in increasingly populous dryland areas.

Today Fedoroff continues write and lecture internationally, most recently keynoting the 2017 Mantua Food and Science Festival in Mantua, Italy. She continues to dance tango, traveling to Buenos Aires each of the past couple of years. 

More profile about the speaker
Nina Fedoroff | Speaker | TED.com