February 25, 2024

Scientists call for clearer gene editing guidelines

A commission is being planned to update extant guidelines.

Scientists have called for clearer guidelines on gene editing research following last month’s bombshell announcement that a Chinese scientist had created the world’s first gene-edited babies.

In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine released a report outlining basic criteria and principles to govern human genome editing. The framework presented in the report was very broad, focusing on how basic principles such as the promotion of wellbeing, transparency, due care and responsible science apply to different gene editing technologies.

Yet Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, said this week that extant guidelines “were not clear enough” on topics such as the gene editing of gametes and embryos. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Dzau said that the guidelines “need to be revisited”, and that a commission is being organised for next year to create a more rigorous regulatory framework.

The commission is still in the planning stages, but Britain’s Royal Society, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other scientific and medical groups outside the U.S. have signed on, Mr Dzau said.

Ethicists welcomed the news of a new commission. Stanford University legal scholar and bioethicist Hank Greely said that clarification of the existing guidelines would make it more difficult for rogue scientists to justify unethical research.

Chinese geneticist He Jiankui — the man at the centre of the current gene-editing controversy — claimed that his embryo gene-editing research was in accord with the guidelines outlined in the 2017 National Academies report.

Scientists call for global regulation of gene editing
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
gene editing
he jiankui
world economic forum