The Gene: An Intimate History

April 2, 2020
7:00pm Eastern Time
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Ken Burns presents “The Gene: An Intimate History” brings vividly to life the story of today’s revolution in medical science through present-day tales of patients and doctors at the forefront of the search for genetic treatments, interwoven with a compelling history of the discoveries that made this possible and the ethical challenges raised by the ability to edit DNA with precision.

Video Description

The Gene Screening Reel - Unlisted

33min 55sec



  • Fred Nahhat, SVP, Production, Detroit Public TV

    Senior VP, Production, Detroit Public TV

  • Chris Durrance, Director

    Chris Durrance is a documentary filmmaker, who has worked on numerous major series and more than a dozen films for PBS’ “FRONTLINE,” including “College Inc.,” “The Madoff Affair” and “Return of the Taliban.” He has worked all over the world, including Europe, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and China and is the winner of a Peabody and two Emmy Awards, a duPont-Columbia silver baton and an Overseas Press Club award. Chris has frequently collaborated with Barak Goodman, notably on two presidential biographies for PBS’ “American Experience” — about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — and on the six-hour series “Cancer: The Emperor of all Maladies.” More recently, he directed, also with Barak Goodman, a feature documentary on gerrymandering, “Slay The Dragon,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019. He is currently working on an HBO documentary on cyber warfare, slated to air in the fall of 2020. “The Gene” is Chris' second collaboration with Barak Goodman, executive producer Ken Burns and the best-selling author, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. The four-hour series premieres on PBS on April 7 and 14, 2020.

  • Susan J. Baserga, MD, PhD, Susan J. Baserga, MD, PhD. William H. Fleming MD Professor of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Prof. of Genetics and Ther. Rad, Yale University Medical Center

    Susan J. Baserga is a Professor at Yale University in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Genetics and Therapeutic Radiology. She was the first woman graduate of Yale College to receive tenure in the biological sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale. Her laboratory has pioneered the molecular basis of how ribosomes are made in our cells, and is now pursuing the mechanistic basis of human diseases called ribosomopathies. She has won the Charles W. Bohmfalk Prize for basic science teaching at the Yale School of Medicine (2014), the William C. Rose Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) for outstanding contributions to scientific research and a demonstrated commitment to the training of young scientists (2016), the Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation Category Winner in Research Innovation and Leadership (2018) and was elected to the National Academy of Inventors (2018).

  • George M. Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, MIT

    George Church is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of, which provides the world's only open-access information on human Genomic, Environmental & Trait data (GET). His 1984 Harvard PhD included the first methods for direct genome sequencing, molecular multiplexing & barcoding. These led to the first genome sequence (pathogen, Helicobacter pylori) in 1994 . His innovations have contributed to nearly all "next generation" DNA sequencing methods and companies (CGI-BGI, Life, Illumina, Nanopore). This plus his lab's work on chip-DNA-synthesis, gene editing and stem cell engineering resulted in founding additional application-based companies spanning fields of medical diagnostics ( Knome/PierianDx, Alacris, AbVitro/Juno, Genos, Veritas Genetics ) & synthetic biology / therapeutics ( Joule, Gen9, Editas, Egenesis, enEvolv, WarpDrive ). He has also pioneered new privacy, biosafety, ELSI, environmental & biosecurity policies. He is director of an IARPA BRAIN Project and NIH Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. His honors include election to NAS & NAE & Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science. He has coauthored 537 papers, 156 patent publications & one book (Regenesis).

  • Howard Markel, MD PhD, University of Michigan

    is the George E. Wantz, M.D. Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. He is also Professor of Pediatrics; Psychiatry; Public Health Management and Policy; History; and English Literature and Language. He was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 23, 1960 and grew up in Oak Park and Southfield, Michigan. Educated at the University of Michigan (A.B., 1982, summa cum laude; M.D., 1986, cum laude eruditionis causa) and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hospital (Intern, Resident and Fellow in General Pediatrics, 1986-1993 and Ph.D., in the History of Medicine, Science and Technology, 1994), he joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1993. The pre-eminent social and cultural historian of medicine, public health, and epidemics in the world, Dr. Markel is the author, co-author, or co-editor of eleven books including the award-winning Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; paperback, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) and When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed (Pantheon Books/Alfred A. Knopf, 2004; paperback Vintage/Random House, 2005).

  • Stanley Perlman, MD PhD, University of Iowa

    Dr. Perlman received his Ph.D. in Biophysics from M.I.T., Cambridge, Massachusetts and his M.D. from the University of Miami, Miami, Florida. He was trained in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. His current research efforts are focused on coronavirus pathogenesis, including virus-induced demyelination and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and COVID-19. His laboratory has developed several novel animal models useful for studying pathogenesis and evaluating vaccines and anti-viral therapies. His studies are directed at understanding why aged patients and mice developed more severe disease than younger individuals after infection with SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-2 and also on why there is a male predominance in patients with more severe disease after infection with SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV-2. He and his colleagues demonstrated that transduction of mice with an adenovirus expressing the human receptor for MERS-CoV, DPP4, rendered them sensitive to infection, providing the first rodent model useful for studying MERS. Similar approaches have been used to develop a mouse model for COVID-19.

  • Dr. Ting Wu, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

    ing (C.-ting) Wu is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, where she is also the Director of the Consortium for Space Genetics and Director of the Personal Genetics Education ( Project. She earned her B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and is the recipient of an NIH Director’s 2012 Pioneer Award for work on the genome and inheritance and an NIH Director’s 2016 Transformative Research Award for work on genome integrity. In addition, her group develops technologies for visualizing the genome. The Wu laboratory also houses the Personal Genetics Education Project (, which works to promote public awareness and dialog about genetics and genetic technologies across all communities. Here, her group works in classrooms, provides curricula and teacher training, runs Congressional briefings, consults with the film and television industry, and partners with communities of faith.

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The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.