In September 2015, a scientist based at the London's Crick Institute, Dr Kathy Niakan submitted the UK's first request to the Human Embriology and Fertilisation Authority (HFEA) for permission to edit the genomes of human embryos.
A few weeks before Dr Niakan's application, the Academy of Medical Sciences and other leading UK research organisations issued a joint statement in support of continuing research into genome editing techniques in preclinical research.
Today the HFEA approved Dr Niakan's application to conduct basic research using genetic editing in human embryos.
Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences commented on the regulator's decision:
"It is reassuring to see the HFEA approving Dr Niakan’s proposal. Studies such as this, that focus on asking basic questions about human-embryo development, are needed to help answer the many scientific and ethical questions remaining in this field.
"Genetic editing may in the future be applied clinically, to treat or prevent otherwise untreatable and serious genetic diseases. It is important that an open debate continues between not just researchers, but ethicists, healthcare professionals, regulators, relevant patients and their families, and the wider public.
"Dr Niakan's study will not just help to advance the biomedical sciences, but will further inform this ongoing debate, while keeping the UK at the forefront in the field."
For more information, please visit our policy project page on genome editing.