News Release 

Media alert: New articles on the ethics of genome editing published in The CRISPR Journal

All articles are embargoed until 10:00 EST / 15:00 GMT Oct. 10, 2019

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News

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IMAGE: The CRISPR Journal delivers groundbreaking multidisciplinary research, advances, and commentary on CRISPR, the extraordinary technology that gives scientists the power to cure disease and sculpt evolution. view more 

Credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

The CRISPR Journal announces the publication of its October 2019 Special Issue on The Ethics of Human Genome Editing. The Journal is led by Editor-in-Chief Rodolphe Barrangou, PhD (North Carolina State University) and Executive Editor Dr. Kevin Davies. For full-text copies of articles or to arrange interviews with Dr. Barrangou, Dr. Davies, authors, or members of the editorial board, contact Kathryn Ryan (kryan@liebertpub.com) at the Publisher.

Highlights from this Issue:

1. Human Germline Genome Editing: An Assessment

In the opening Perspective of the special issue on The Ethics of Human Genome Editing, Stanford Law professor Henry Greely argues that germline editing is not inherently bad or unethical, but the technology is unlikely to be particularly useful, at least in the near future. Greely takes issue with the notion that the human genome is "the heritage of humanity" - the equivalent of The Ark of the Covenant that "cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands." He contrasts germline editing with the practical applications of preimplantation genetic testing and somatic gene therapy. Exceptions for germline editing might be found in the cases of rare couples where both partners have the same recessive disorder or one is homozygous for a dominant disease.

Contact: Henry Greely (hgreely@stanford.edu) (Stanford Law School, Palo Alto CA).

2. Pick Six: Democratic Governance of Germline Editing

Two international commissions, organized by the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academies, and the Royal Society, have been launched to provide recommendations for the governance of human germline editing, prompted by the actions of He Jiankui and the 2018 CRISPR babies reports. In this Perspective, Jasanoff, Hurlbut, and Saha argue that such an approach is "premature and problematic." Global democratic governance "demands a new mechanism for active, sustained reflection by scientists" in partnership with scholars from other disciplines and the public. The authors present six recommendations to promote democratic governance.

Contact: Sheila Jasanoff (ksaha@wisc.edu) (Kennedy Sch Govt, Harvard University), Ben Hurlbut (Arizona State University), Krishanu Saha (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

3. Just Say No to a Moratorium

In March 2019, Eric Lander, Francoise Baylis, and colleagues issued a call for a temporary global moratorium on heritable genome editing. In this Perspective, Kerry Macintosh, author of Enhanced Beings, offers three reasons she opposes the imposition of a moratorium: the danger of a temporary ban becoming permanent; a disincentive to support appropriate research to make the technology safer and more effective; and the potential stigmatization of children born with edited genomes. Nations should regulate germline editing for safety and efficacy only, Macintosh says, without distinguishing between therapeutic applications and enhancement.

Contact: Kerry Lynn Macintosh (kmacintosh@scu.edu) (Santa Clara University School of Law, CA)

4. Who Speaks for Future Children?

Law professor Bartha Knoppers and Erika Kleiderman write that the recent calls for a moratorium on germline editing "may create an illusion of control over rogue science and stifle the necessary international debate surrounding an ethically responsible translational path forward." Focusing efforts on enforcing current laws and fostering public dialogue is a better route, the authors suggest.

Contact: Bartha Knoppers (bartha.knoppers@mcgill.ca) (McGill University, Montreal Canada)

5. The Daunting Economics of Therapeutic Genome Editing

Ten years after the first gene editing clinical trial got underway, gene therapy is experiencing a renaissance. Recent approvals for some gene therapy drugs have been accompanied by exorbitant price tags, in one case exceeding $2 million. Looking ahead, Wilson and Carroll ask whether CRISPR can make good on its promise as "a great leveler" and "democratizing force in biomedicine". They write: "Therapeutic genome editing must avoid several pitfalls that could substantially limit access to its transformative potential, especially in the developing world." The costs of drug manufacture, testing, and delivery will have to come down to make the benefits of genome editing available to those most in need.

Contact: Ross Wilson (Rosswilson@berkeley.edu) (IGI, UC Berkeley, CA) or Dana Carroll (dana@biochem.utah.edu) (University of Utah Sch Med, Utah)

6. The Demand for Germline Editing: View from a Fertility Clinic

A common argument against human germline editing is that there is already a safe, proven technology to help couples have a healthy biological child -- preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). In this Perspective, Manuel Viotti and colleagues from a leading IVF clinic in California strive to calculate the likely occurrence of cases where germline editing might offer couples opportunities to have a healthy biological child where PGT would not be applicable. The numbers are very small indeed.

Contact: Manuel Viotti (manuel@zouvesfoundation.org) (Zouves Fertility Center, Foster City CA)

7. Brave New World in the CRISPR Debate

In any discussion or warnings of designer babies and future dystopian societies based on genetic or reproductive technologies, exhibit A is invariably Aldous Huxley's iconic 1932 novel, Brave New World. Indeed, David Baltimore referred to the novel at both of the international genome editing summits. In this Perspective, Derek So dissects the misuse of Brave New World, particularly regarding genome editing technology, enhancement, and eugenics. So even offers a few less celebrated, but potentially more appropriate, examples from the sci-fi literature.

Contact: Derek So (derek.so@mail.mcgill.ca) (McGill University, Montreal, Canada)

Other Articles:

8. Attitudes of Members of Genetics Professional Societies Toward Human Gene Editing

Contact: Kelly Ormond (kormond@stanford.edu) (Stanford University)

9. Attitudes Towards Hypothetical Uses of Gene Editing Technologies in Parents of People with Autosomal Aneuploidies

Contact: Kelly Ormond (kormond@stanford.edu) (Stanford University)

10. Controlling CRISPR Through Law: Legal regimes as Peer Review Precautionary Principles.

Contact: Jacob Sherkow (jsherkow@nyls.edu) (New York Law School, New York)

11. Societal and Ethical Impacts of Germline Genome Editing: How can we Secure Human Rights?

Contact: Jodi Halpern (jhalpern@berkeley.edu) (UC Berkeley)

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