May 30, 2018

Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing Announced for 2018

Over the last several years, the genome editing field (exemplified by the CRISPR-Cas9 technology) has rapidly expanded to all manner of applications in medicine, agriculture, environment, etc. The attention to legal, regulatory, and bioethical implications of this powerful new technology has grown in parallel. The U.S. National Academies of Science and Medicine launched the Human Genome Editing Initiative in 2015. Most notably, the First International Summit on Human Gene Editing was organized by several national science academies, and took place in December, 2015 (consensus statement here) (see earlier post). Now, 3 years later, the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing has been announced by a group of science academies (U.S., U.K., and Hong Kong). The summit will take place on Nov. 27-29, 2018, at the University of Hong Kong, and will be webcast live. The organizers issued this statement of purpose:
    The science of human genome editing has advanced rapidly since the first international summit was held in 2015 in Washington, D.C. An explosion of new research is employing CRISPR/Cas9 and other powerful, precise editing tools, and clinical trials are planned for applications to treat diseases. However, many questions remain unanswered concerning the science, application, ethics, and governance of human genome editing. Of particular concern is the possibility of genome editing that might lead to heritable alterations, and applications for purposes other than to treat diseases or disabilities.
    The Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing will continue to advance the global discussion on these issues by bringing together a broad range of stakeholders – including researchers, ethicists, policy makers, patient groups, and representatives from science and medical academies and organizations worldwide. Participants will examine issues including:
•    scientific advances that have been made since the 2015 summit;
•    progress in the study of non-heritable genome editing to treat diseases;
•    the state of the science for genome editing in germline cells and the potential for clinical applications;
•    efforts to address technical challenges identified at the 2015 summit;
•    prospects for developing international regulatory frameworks;
•    ethical and societal issues surrounding the pursuit of human genome-editing applications; and
•    efforts to engage the public.
    This second summit will focus global attention on the rapid technological pace of the field, and can draw on 3 more years of research since the 2015 gathering. In 2018, there is more clarity on the scientific challenges of the technology. There is also more technical heterogeneity in the field, such as the development of more precise versions of the Cas9 enzyme in the CRISPR-Cas9 system. Finally, the scope of applications for genome editing techniques is broadening all the time, and the 2018 snapshot will reveal just how widely the technology has shaped modern biological science.

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