Scientists from all over the world will gather between today and Thursday in the International Summit on Gene Editing celebrated in Washington, D.C. The experts will discuss the scientific, medical, ethical, and governance consequences of the last advances in human gene editing tools. The main topic will be CRISPR-Cas9, a technique with enormous potential that has raised concerns in the scientific community because of the hereditability of modifications to the germline.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a fast and efficient genome editing tool that has already been used to engineer immune cells of a leukemia patient, reversing her condition, or to modify mosquitoes and render them unable to carry malaria. One of the topics covered in the summit is the bioethics of genetic modification, which can range from fixing a disease to enhancing human qualities. UNESCO called for a moratorium in germline editing until the techniques in use are fully understood. The consequences of a failed germline modification would not only affect one person, but also their offspring.
Helping people take informed decisions
Expert speakers will discuss the historical, legal and scientific aspects of human gene editing, the societal implications of the new technologies, their applications in basic research and somatic cell therapy, and the governance, regulation and control at the institutional, national and international levels.
The event, co-hosted with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the U.K.’s Royal Society, is part of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Human Gene-Editing Initiative, which aims to inform researchers, politicians, and laypeople about gene editing and enabling them to take informed decisions. The summit ‘s main objective is to create guidelines for researchers to follow when editing human genomes. The events proceeding will be streamed live at www.nationalacademies.org.