Francis Collins calls for moratorium on genome germline editing
Francis Collins is one of the lead scientists behind the historical Human Genome Project. He now leads US’ NIH – National Institutes of Health, one of the biggest biomedical agencies in the world. Under his leadership, NIH took hard stance on He Jiankui’s experiment, where two children were modified with CRISPR to introduce HIV resistance. Just a day after the experiment has surfaced, he wrote in a statement:
NIH does not support the use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos.NIH
This statement was reinforced few months later, when Francis Collins wrote a letter to Nature magazine, backing up a moratorium proposition written by Eric Lander:
We strongly support Eric Lander and colleagues’ call for an international moratorium on clinical uses of human germline editing. (…) There are significant reasons to support a moratorium at the present time. As Lander and colleagues note, the risks currently far outweigh the benefits, given the serious and unquantifiable safety issues, ethical concerns and lack of sufficiently compelling medical applications.Nature
It’s no wonder that the NIH director stands by this judgement, this time reiterating the call at “Policy Summit”, conference of ASGCT:
I do believe this is an appropriate moment to have a moratorium on any future attempts at human clinical germline gene editing.ASGCT
In addition, he clarified that even after solving safety issues, there is no medical need for germline genome editing. Cases such as pairs with genes homozygotic for particular diseases were deemed as “very rare circumstances” which should not drive “bad scientific decisions”.