The Council has established a new working group to explore the ethical issues raised by novel genome editing techniques, such as the CRISPR-Cas9 system, that allow precise, targeted changes to be made to DNA molecules in living cells.
Genome editing has a number of possible applications, including in humans, animals and plants. On 22 April, the Council held a workshop with invited experts to identify the most important issues that the Council should address. The workshop highlighted a broad range of ethical issues and potential impact of the technology within different fields of application.
The Council has agreed that the project will be carried out in stages. The first stage will consider the impact of genome editing in research, examine the kinds of ethical questions this gives rise to and review relevant international and national policies.
This will be followed by one or more focused report(s) on specific areas of application containing practical ethical guidance and focused policy recommendations. The findings of the first stage will be published in 2016, to coincide with the start of the first ‘applications’ project. During the course of the project, one of the aims of which will be to inform and stimulate public debate, the Council plans to engage with a wide range of perspectives.
The first stage will be overseen by a core working group, chaired by Dr Andy Greenfield, Council member, Programme Leader for the Mammalian Genetics Unit at MRC Harwell, and member of the HFEA.
Members of the core working group are:
- Professor Christine Watson, Council member, Professor of Cell and Cancer Biology in the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Newnham College
- David Lawrence, Council member, Non-Executive Director at Syngenta AG, Chair of the Syngenta Science & Technology Advisory Board, and a member of the Biotechnology & Biological Science Research Council
- Dr Tony Perry, Reader, Laboratory of Mammalian Molecular Embryology, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath
- Professor John Dupré, Professor of Philosophy of Science, Exeter University and Director, EGENIS, Centre for the Study of Life Sciences
- Professor Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics at the Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health
- Professor Charis Thompson, Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science
- Professor Karen Yeung, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Technology, Ethics & Law in Society (TELOS), King’s College London
Find out more about our work on genome editing