The National Academies of Science (NAS) and National Academies of Medicine (NAM) have their work cut out for them as they begin hashing out under what circumstances, if any, should researchers carry out germline editing of human genomes. NAS and NAM said earlier this month they will develop recommendations for researchers on the thorny issue, through an initiative that will include an international summit set for this fall, an international committee, and an advisory panel to guide the work. The summit will “convene researchers and other experts to explore the scientific, ethical, and policy issues associated with human gene-editing research,” the academies said in a statement.
The committee’s task will be no less than to decide: Who should prevail among researchers when it comes to germline genome editing?
“I am delighted that the NAS and the NAM are leading a discussion of these important issues,” Dr. Doudna told the journal Nature. “This is indeed the kind of response we hoped to trigger.”
A reminder of the high stakes on this issue emerged on April 18, when Junjiu Huang, Ph.D., and colleagues at China’s Sun Yat-sen University published results in in the journal Protein & Cell from their use of CRISPR/Cas9 on human embryos
That adds urgency to the academies’ effort to develop guidelines for the practice aimed at ensuring safety and preventing unethical. Those guidelines should be a first step toward global standards of research more likely to gain compliance beyond the U.S. and the West. Even more urgent is the need for any guidelines to be adopted by institutions conducting research, and especially the conferences and journals that disseminate its results.
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