PBS Science Series Nova Presents The Feature Film "HUMAN NATURE"

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On September 9, 2020, the PBS science series NOVA, a production of WGBH Boston, will premiere HUMAN NATURE, a new feature-length film exploring the science, history, and ethics of a revolutionary gene-editing technology and its applications.

HUMAN NATURE will also be available for streaming online and on the PBS video app. 

HUMAN NATURE follows the story of scientific developments in gene therapy, culminating in our ability to make precise edits to DNA—including human DNA. The  film tells the story of the discovery of CRISPR CAS-9 editing, which has shown early promise as a cure for several debilitating or lethal genetic diseases, but also has the capability of making changes to healthy genes—raising ethical questions about whether we should be altering human DNA at all.


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"CRISPR is a world-changing technology that raises essential ethical questions about health care, equitable access to medical breakthroughs, and even our future as a species," says NOVA Co-Executive Producer, Chris Schmidt. "As one of America's most-trusted science documentary series, we are so proud to present this important story to the public."

Through a series of discoveries beginning in the 1990s, scientists discovered CRISPR CAS-9. Found in microbial genomes as a natural defense against viruses, CRISPR sequences can be used to program cells to edit their own DNA, a revolutionary technology with the potential to change the course of human evolution. The discovery has led to new approaches to treating genetic diseases. 

Almost overnight, it became theoretically possible to change the unchangeable: This technology could be used to cure cancer, sickle cell disease, muscular dystrophy, and other devastating previously incurable genetic diseases. But it has also fueled a sharp debate over what constitutes a "normal" human being and whether we should ever seek to change who we are by altering our genomes—or those of our children. 


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"We made this film to help people wrap their heads around one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of our time and we're thrilled that NOVA is bringing it to public television," says HUMAN NATURE Producer and Director, Adam Bolt. "Everyone should have a chance to understand what CRISPR is and where it came from, so they can be part of deciding where this incredible technology will take us."

Today, there seems to be no end to the difficult ethical questions raised by the technology.  Where do we draw the line with genetic manipulation? Whose diseases get cured? What is a disability? Do parents have a right to choose the characteristics of their children? What are the long-term consequences of manipulating the human genome, and changing forever the course of our evolution? HUMAN NATURE engages the world's leading geneticists and scientists to explore the vast implications of this relatively new scientific discovery, and the difficult questions it poses. 

The film introduces David Sanchez, a young man who has sickle cell disease, and his family. David is one of the millions of people whose genetic disease scientists are already trying to cure using CRISPR CAS-9 gene editing. David's family hopes that within his lifetime this sort of genetic intervention will be available to him. Alongside David, HUMAN NATURE tells the story of CRISPR's discovery, the spread of its use across the globe, and its current applications. Many of the scientists involved in the CRISPR revolution are featured in the film, including Jennifer Doudna, the UC Berkeley biologist who made one of the key discoveries of the CRISPR CAS-9 DNA editing process. Other voices in the film include Nobel Prize-winning scientist David Baltimore, geneticist George Church, bioethicist Alta Charo, and many others. 


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HUMAN NATURE takes on the major ethical questions posed by the CRISPR revolution—watch as the world's leading scientists, geneticists, and medical professionals, alongside real people suffering from genetic diseases, reckon with our role in human evolutionary history and the potential of CRISPR to change the world.

The documentary approaches this incredible story of scientific development through a uniquely human lens—and examines the moral quandary of gene editing. The documentary is an experiment in science storytelling, interweaving the macro- and micro-narratives in the ongoing story of DNA modification. HUMAN NATURE is the product of a first-of-its-kind collaboration between scientists, journalists, and filmmakers to bring to the public a unique insight into perhaps the most significant scientific and medical discovery in our lifetimes.

HUMAN NATURE premieres Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 8 p.m. ET/7C on PBS and will be available for streaming online and on the PBS video app. 

HUMAN NATURE is a NOVA production by the Wonder Collaborative for NOVA/WGBH Boston.  Produced by Meredith DeSalazar and Sarah Goodwin. Produced and Directed by Adam Bolt. Written by Adam Bolt & Regina Sobel. Executive Producers for HUMAN NATURE are Elliot Kirschner, Dan Rather and Greg Bousted. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of WGBH Boston. ©2019_iBiology Inc. and WGBH Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


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National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the NOVA Science Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding for HUMAN NATURE is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Additional production support is provided by Sandbox Films, a Simons Foundation initiative.

About NOVA

NOVA is the most popular primetime science series on American television, demystifying the scientific and technological concepts that shape and define our lives, our planet, and our universe. The PBS series is also one of the most widely distributed science programs around the world, and is a multimedia, multiplatform brand reaching more than 55 million Americans every year on TV and online. NOVA's important and inspiring stories of human ingenuity, exploration, and the quest for knowledge are regularly recognized with the industry's most prestigious awards. As part of its mission to make the scientific enterprise accessible to all, NOVA is committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all its work, from the production process to the range of stories we tell and voices we feature. In addition, science educators across the country rely on NOVA for resources used in the classroom as well as in museums, libraries, and after-school programs. NOVA is a production of WGBH Boston; more information can be found at pbs.org/nova, or by following NOVA on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

About PBS

PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 100 million people through television and nearly 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS' broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry's most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS' premier children's media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a new 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America's pre-eminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the web, including Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, Curious George and more than a dozen other primetime, lifestyle, and children's series. WGBH also is a major supplier of programming for public radio, and oversees Public Radio International (PRI). As a leader in educational multimedia for the classroom, WGBH supplies content to PBS LearningMedia, a national broadband service for teachers and students. WGBH also is a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors. More info at www.wgbh.org.

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