Human Genome Editing Summit Kicks Off in Hong Kong 

Nov. 27

HONG KONG — Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, welcomed hundreds of participants from around the world to the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, which began today.

“Hong Kong is honored to be hosting this prestigious group of scientists and experts from around the world,” Lam said at the three-day summit, being held on the campus at the University of Hong Kong. She noted that the acceleration of genome editing research that has occurred since the first international summit in 2015 in Washington D.C. makes it an opportune time to reconsider the science, ethics, and governance of this emerging area of research and applications.

This week’s gathering recognizes the global scope of human genome editing research, noted Nobel laureate David Baltimore, the chair of the summit’s organizing committee, in his opening address.

“As was the case when I attended the Asilomar Conference in 1975, we are gathered as a community to discuss the broader implications of breakthroughs that had previously been barely imaginable,” said Baltimore. “The ramifications of using genome editing to make permanent changes to the genome – and in particularly changes that will be passed on to future generations – means that it is critical for us to both hear and acknowledge diverse perspectives.”

The event is drawing increased attention from international journalists as news broke on the eve of the summit that a Chinese researcher – scheduled to speak at the summit on Wednesday -- reportedly edited human embryos that were implanted and recently led to the birth of twins.  The news prompted the organizing committee to issue a statement highlighting two major reports that provided guidance on when and under what conditions heritable genome editing might be deemed permissible.  The statement added that it has yet to be determined whether the reported case in China conformed to the stringent guidelines recommended by these reports.

Throughout the first day of the summit, experts gave presentations on multiple issues surrounding the science of human genome editing, including the science of human genome editing, social and philosophical reflections on manipulating genetic variation, and an update on governmental actions and advisory opinions regarding human genome editing. Archived video of the presentations will be available here.