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Genetics in Hollywood: A Reflection of Real-Life Scientific, Clinical, and Ethical Challenges

Wayne W. Grody, M.D., Ph.D

April 25, 2024 | 5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.

The old cliché that life imitates art (or vice versa) is nowhere truer than in the depiction of genetic concepts in motion pictures and television shows. These works of fiction almost always build on real-world discoveries, phenomena, procedures, and diseases. As human and medical genetics have become increasingly dependent on molecular biology, film stories have followed suit. For example, films about animal or human cloning have evolved to include molecular genetic threats, whether viral or through human genome editing. In the never-ending quest for new and novel plotlines, writers and producers seek out scientific and medical experts for story ideas and scientific or medical concepts that will fit an existing story.

This presentation by Wayne W. Grody, a Professor in the Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics, and Human Genetics, and the Institute for Society and Genetics, at the UCLA School of Medicine, will provide numerous examples from his own experience as a Technical Advisor for movies and television shows. Wayne will illustrate how such expertise is adopted–or sometimes rejected–in pursuit of an engaging story. Other filmic examples will demonstrate the uncanny concordance of the fictional world with many of the thorniest ethical and legal issues we are now facing in the real world of clinical genetics. In each case, the corresponding real-world technology will be compared with the claims of the fictional one.

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Wayne W. Grady smiling in his UCLA lab coat

Our speaker

Wayne W. Grody is a professor at UCLA School of Medicine and an attending physician in the Department of Pediatrics.

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