June 2019

Charles Rotimi.

Charles Rotimi, PhD, ASHG Board of Directors

As a leading global voice in genetics and emerging technologies, ASHG and its members have been active in recent conversations about establishing international standards about CRISPR genome editing, both within our scientific community and across organizations.

When the news broke late last year of genome editing being performed on the embryos of twins, ASHG and many other scientific groups expressed that while this technology has exciting potential, at this point, it is premature to conduct germline genome editing culminating in human pregnancy.

Gathering and Sharing ASHG Member Perspectives

This fall’s Annual Meeting, taking place October 15-19 in Houston, provides a valuable opportunity for global researchers to gather and exchange views on this important topic. Recognizing this opportunity, the meeting schedule features a 90-minute forum titled “Perspectives on Germline Gene Editing Regulation.”

At this event, open to all meeting registrants, attendees will be able to engage with leaders from groups leading this work, including Kay E. Davies, DPhil, current Chair of the ASHG Nominating Committee and 2015 recipient of ASHG’s William Allan Award; and Robert Lovell-Badge, PhD.

Filling Key Roles and Supporting an International Commission

ASHG is also proud to be a formal supporter of a new global commission on germline genome editing, which will be co-chaired by Dr. Davies and Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD.

“ASHG was happy to participate in the commission nomination process, and we are proud that one of our members was chosen as a co-chair,” said ASHG President Les Biesecker, MD. ASHG members Bartha Maria Knoppers, PhD, and Eric Lander, PhD, will also serve on the group.

Convened by the National Academies (NASEM) with representation from a variety of scientific organizations, the commission includes representatives from 10 countries. It will produce a report on key factors to consider regarding the medical suitability of the use of genome editing, as well as potential governance and regulatory structures.

Collective, Global Thinking Engages Our Genetics Expertise

Last year’s scientific news, along with rapid continued research progress in vitro, led leadership at NASEM and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to propose a need for experts and stakeholders to convene on this topic, in order to craft criteria and standards to be met before human germline genome editing may be deemed permissible. In January, President Leslie Biesecker, MD, and Past President David Nelson, PhD, met with NASEM leaders to explore how ASHG can be helpful in this effort and engage the collective expertise of our members.

As genome editing and other emerging technologies continue to advance, ASHG members will be at the center of public conversation on the broader questions raised by their application. We look forward to engaging with the scientific community, the public, and policymakers on these important questions and leveraging research advances to the benefit of people everywhere.