Council responds to NAS-NAM report on human genome editing

The US National Academies of Sciences (NAS) and National Academy of Medicine (NAM) have today released the new report Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance. The report provides an overview of current capabilities in the rapidly developing field of human genome editing technologies, their potential use in biomedical research and medicine, and the clinical, ethical, legal, and social implications of their use.

Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said: “We welcome this report on genome editing in humans from the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. Whilst genome editing takes place in a global context which we must recognise, the governance arrangements differ from country to country. The US report foresees the use of inheritable genome editing under certain conditions. In the UK such use is clearly prohibited by existing law and any move to alter this would be long and controversial, with moral arguments for and against.

“This is why the Council is looking carefully now at its implications and potential applications, listening to all views and perspectives, before we consider our advice on whether or how to proceed. The Council published a review of the ethics of genome editing research last year and identified priority areas for more detailed work, including issues relating to human reproduction. Our report on this will be published later this year, so we welcome this important contribution from the NAS and NAM and look forward to reviewing it in detail. We will also soon begin work on looking at genome editing in the context of farmed animals.”

Notes to Editors:

  • The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body that examines and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine. It was established by the Trustees of theNuffield Foundation in 1991, and since 1994 it has been funded jointly by the Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.
  • Hugh Whittall, will be at the AAAS meeting in Boston. As well as attending the seminar on Gene Editing: Science and Policy Implications on Friday 17 February, he will also be in the Exhibit Hall at Hynes Convention Center on 18 February with a poster on genome editing.

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