Viewpoint: ‘Greed and profit’ will drive human gene editing unless we develop strong regulations

6-3-2019 editing
Zhou Xiaoqin installs a fine glass pipette into a sperm injection microscope in preparation for injecting embryos with Cas9 protein and PCSK9 sgRNA at a lab in Shenzhen in southern China's Guandong province. Image: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

We may now be on the verge of adding germline engineering to the menu of available reproductive services, that will, for a price, offer to edit “desired” genetic characteristics into embryos — both health-related and enhancements — that will pass down the generations.

As some in the science community expressed outrage at [He Jiankui]— not, in my opinion, over what was done, but when — a business director of a Dubai fertility clinic emailed the scientist to congratulate the genetic engineer for the “achievement of the first gene-edited baby delivered by your technique.” The email then got the real point of the communication: The clinic wanted to send its embryologist to China to learn the technique so genetic engineering could added to its menu of available services.

Related article:  Man with at least 17 children sues fertility clinic for being 'incredibly irresponsible' with his sperm

The alacrity with which the Dubai clinic reacted to the birth of a genetically engineered baby –before its safety has been determined, much less its moral propriety fully explored — illustrates that greed and profit will be the accelerant that drives genetic engineering into widespread deployment. It will, that is, unless stringent and legally enforceable regulations prevent the biotech wildcatters from taking control.

Read full, original post: Don’t Let Profiteers Control Human Genetic Engineering

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