President's reaction: call for a moratorium on heritable genome editing



In response to a call for a moratorium on heritable genome editing, as published in Nature, Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of The Academy of Medical Sciences said:

“There is no doubt that genome editing technologies hold huge potential for the future health of patients, but I agree that the clinical use of germline genome editing should remain prohibited. There are currently just too many unanswered safety, ethical and scientific questions.

“I am pleased that the proposed moratorium does not wish to change the way scientists can use germline editing for research use, nor does it seek to prohibit genome editing in human somatic cells to treat diseases. Considerable progress has already been seen in these areas and it is essential that this kind of research and treatment development can continue. With this in mind, using the term ‘moratorium’ is unhelpful and any timeframe for a fixed term ban would be largely arbitrary. Instead, the scientific community should focus on learning from the initiatives currently being established.

“I support the development of an international framework to provide guidance on the clinical applications of germline genome editing being set up by the US National Academies of Sciences and Medicine, together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the UK’s Royal Society. The Academy of Medical Sciences is pleased to be contributing to this commission and alongside the work by the World Health Organization on global governance and oversight of human genome editing, and wider public engagement activities, I hope that this will shine much-needed light on whether, and when, clinical applications of germline genome editing should proceed.”

See here for our dedicated policy page on previous work around genome editing 

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