March 18, 2019
A group of international experts calls for a moratorium on the clinical use of kimline by human editing.
Led by Professor Eric Lander, Director of the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, 17 scientists and ethics from seven countries made the call in Nature magazine. The signatories included CRISPR pioneer Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany, and led CRISPR researcher Dr Feng Zhang, also at Broad Institute.
The group calls for a temporary global ban on changing hereditary DNA to "make genetically modified children" and has proposed the establishment of an international governance framework. Nations would "voluntarily commit" to only approve clinical kimline editing if certain conditions were met.
"We want to make sure the countries don't do things secretly, we declare what we think, discuss it openly, and are prepared for debate and disagreement," said Professor Lander to the Guardian.
"To be clear, our proposed moratorium does not apply to germline research, provided these studies do not involve the transfer of an embryo to a person's uterus," the group wrote in their comment. "Neither does it apply to genomic editing in human somatic (non-reproductive) cells for the treatment of diseases for which patients can give informed consent, and the DNA modifications are not hereditary. & # 39;
The move follows the announced birth of the genuinely edited twins in December, who were asserted as a world first by dr. He Jiankui, then at the South University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China (see BioNews 977 and 978).
The researcher's work has been condemned globally by the scientific community for ethical, moral and security reasons. China has since developed new rules for "high-risk" biomedical technologies, including genome editing, which would require high-level administrative approval (see BioNews 989).
A framework and the need for further discussions on germline through editing have gained widespread global support, although the idea of a moratorium has had a mixed response. The US National Health Institutions endorsed the proposal in accordance with nature while others disagreed.
"We do not agree that a moratorium is necessarily the best way to navigate this problem. Finding the right governance method is critical, says Dr. Beth Thompson, UK Head of State and EU Wellcome Trust Policy.
"A moratorium on the clinical use of kimline through editing is neither necessary nor useful," says Sarah Norcross, director of Progress Educational Trust (who publishes BioNews). "We do not believe that a moratorium would have deterred Han Jiankui, who acted secretly and contrary to a clear scientific consensus that germline transformation should not be used in the clinic."
Meanwhile, efforts have been made to develop criteria and standards for germline work. The heads of the US National Academies of Science, the US National Academy of Medicine and the Royal Society wrote in Nature that their organizations are now leading an international commission. This will detail the scientific and ethical issues to be considered.
They also welcomed the World Health Organization's recent decision to convene a worldwide selection of scientific experts to develop a set of international standards (see BioNews 987).