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US senators call for international stand on germline genome editing

22 July 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1007

Three US senators have introduced a bipartisan resolution to encourage international cooperation in regulating human genome editing. 

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Marco Rubio and Jack Reed introduced the resolution on 15 July which 'recognises that the question of whether to proceed with heritable genome editing touches on all of humanity' and asserted that global collaboration is needed to decide how germline genome editing should be used within a reproductive context. 

Senator Feinstein said: 'Gene editing is a powerful technology that has the potential to lead to new therapies for devastating and previously untreatable diseases. However, like any new technology, there is potential for misuse. The international community must establish standards for gene-editing research to develop global ethical principles and prevent unethical researchers from moving to whichever country has the loosest regulations.'

The resolution explicitly condemns the actions of Dr He Jiankui, who last year used CRISPR/Cas9 on human embryos, resulting in the birth of twins with edited genomes. The resolution also expresses support for the international commission convened by the US National Academies of Medicine and Sciences, and the UK's Royal Society, to develop an international framework regarding human germline genome editing (see Bionews 1000). 

If passed, the resolution would also encourage the Secretary of State to work with other counties and international bodies to 'forge an international consensus regarding the limits of ethical clinical use of genome-edited human embryos'. 

Senator Rubio added: '[There] are dangerous and unethical ramifications if countries perform unrestricted and unethical experiments on humans to advance the science of gene editing. There has been global outcry in response to unethical gene editing experiments, and scientists have warned of the potential long-term consequences that could impact future generations. As we move forward, it’s vital that the United States lead the way in creating ethical standards for gene-editing research.'

STAT reports that the resolution is significant 'because the scientific community is engaging in work that could employ gene editing to prevent genetic disease, and 'some members of Congress have recently expressed some openness to lifting the ban on editing embryos used to start pregnancies'.

Following 'CRISPR babies' scandal, senators call for international gene editing guidelines
STAT |  15 July 2019
Resolution. Calling for international ethical standards in genome editing research.
US Senate |  16 July 2019
Senators Call for Ethical Standards for Gene-Editing Research
United States Senator for California Dianne Feinstein |  15 July 2019
US Senators Call for International Guidelines for Germline Editing
The Scientist |  16 July 2019
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