WHO pushes for strong regulations on human genome editing

WHO pushes for strong regulations on human genome editing

The World Health Organization’s new advisory committee on developing global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing reached a consensus on the need of a central registry on human genome editing research.

The committee asked WHO to immediately begin working to establish such a registry in order to create an open and transparent database of ongoing work on human genome editing.

After agreeing to work towards a strong international governance framework in this area, the committee noted that it was irresponsible at this time for anyone to proceed with clinical applications of human germline genome editing.

The committee has invited all those conducting human genome editing research to open discussions with the committee to better understand the technical environment and governance arrangements and help ensure their work meets current scientific and ethical best practice.

The experts reviewed the current state of science and technology. They also agreed on core principles of transparency, inclusivity and responsibility that underpin the recommendations.

The committee will operate in an inclusive manner and has made a series of concrete proposals to increase WHO’s capacity to act as an information resource in this area.

Over the next two years, through a series of in-person meetings and online consultations, the committee will consult with a wide range of stakeholders and provide recommendations for a comprehensive governance framework that is scalable, sustainable and appropriate for use at the international, regional, national and local levels. The committee will solicit the views of multiple stakeholders including patient groups, civil society, ethicists and social scientists.

“Gene editing holds incredible promise for health, but it also poses some risks, both ethically and medically,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in an official release.

Regulatory needs for germline editing came to the spotlight late last year when a Chinese scientist claimed to have produced babies with edited genomes. WHO formed an expert panel to look into the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges of human genome editing using the application of tools such as CRISPR-Cas9.

Meanwhile, China is planning to introduce a regulatory system for genetic technologies as a measure to stem the global backlash triggered by the genome editing experiment, reports said.

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