Science continues to push ahead, and a recent example illustrates some of what lies ahead. Many (but not all) tort law rules include some element of proof focused on the foreseeability of the harm caused by a product. That may seem simple when one is considering a shovel, for example. But when the products interact at the cellular level, the complexities are greater. And, more and more, lawyers are going to need to understand to understand chemistry and biology.
The latest example from science? Thanks to researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston Informatics Program (CHIPS), there is new software aimed at predicting when drugs will disrupt the function of the reproductive system. ScienceDaily has the full story here. Here are key excerpts:
The model, described in the March 2011 issue of Reproductive Toxicology (published online in November), used bioinformatics and public databases to profile 619 drugs already assigned to a pregnancy risk class, and whose target genes or proteins are known. For each of the genes targeted, 7426 in all, CHIP investigators Asher Schachter, MD, MMSc, MS, and Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, crunched databases to identify genes involved in biological processes related to fetal development, looking for telltale search terms like "genesis," "develop," "differentiate" or "growth."
The researchers found that drugs targeting a large proportion of genes associated with fetal development tended to be in the higher risk classes. Based on the developmental gene profile, they created a model that showed 79 percent accuracy in predicting whether a drug would be in Class A (safest) or Class X (known teratogen).
Conclusion ? Tremendous change is ahead. Perhaps more aspiring lawyers will spend undergraduate days or other time learning biology, and much more. Who knows – maybe it will become common to see law schools focus on science, or team with other graduate schools to offer combined programs.