Nov. 26, 2018

Statement from the Organizing Committee on Reported Human Embryo Genome Editing

HONG KONG -- On the eve of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, we were informed of the birth of twins in China whose embryonic genomes had been edited. The researcher who led the work, He Jiankui, is scheduled to speak at the summit on Wednesday.

The criteria under which heritable genome-editing clinical trials could be deemed permissible have been the subject of much debate and discussion by many research groups.  Numerous studies have provided guidance for the conduct of heritable genome-editing clinical trials. One such study, a 2017 report by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, concluded that clinical trials might be permitted after peer-reviewed preclinical research further clarifies the potential risks and benefits, only for compelling medical reasons in the absence of reasonable alternatives, and with maximum transparency and strict oversight.  The report noted that such research should be approached with caution and with broad public input.  It specified a regulatory framework that included ten recommended criteria and structures. A second major report, released in 2018, which was the result of an independent inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the U.K., also specifies “circumstances in which heritable genome editing interventions should be permitted.”  Whether the clinical protocols that resulted in the births in China conformed with the guidance in these studies remains to be determined.

We hope that the dialogue at our summit further advances the world’s understanding of the issues surrounding human genome editing.  Our goal is to help ensure that human genome editing research be pursued responsibly, for the benefit of all society. 

Contact:

Molly Galvin
Office of News and Public Information
U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
mgalvin@nas.edu
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