WHO restates opposition to gene-editing live human embryos but endorses other forms of genome modification

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Credit: Financial Times
Credit: Financial Times

[July 12,] a World Health Organization advisory committee called on the world’s largest public health authority to stand by the 2019 statement of its director-general urging a halt to any experiments that might lead to the births of more gene-edited humans.

The committee — established in December 2018, weeks after news broke of the birth of twin girls whose genomes were edited by Chinese scientist He Jiankui — said in a pair of long-awaited reports that the germline editing technology that led to the “CRISPR babies” scandal is still too scientifically and ethically fraught for use. But for other, less controversial forms of gene-editing, the reports offer a path to how governments might establish the technology as a tool for improving public health.

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“The framework recognizes that policies governing the technology will likely vary from country to country,” committee co-chair and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at a virtual press conference [July 12]. “Nonetheless the framework calls on all countries to incorporate key values and principles into their policies, such as inclusiveness, equal moral worth, social justice, responsible stewardship of science, solidarity, and global health justice.”

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