Jennifer Doudna, one of CRISPR inventors, calls for new regulations of gene editing

In an article, titled as “CRISPR’s unwanted anniversary”, Jennifer Doudna referred to an almost year-old experiment with using CRISPR to edit newborns. Its author, He Jiankui, faced short arrest and then was entirely erased from public life, including scientific activities and internet record. Today, it is unclear what happened to him, but Doudna vows for:

Consequences for defying established restrictions should include, at a minimum, loss of funding and publication privileges.

Doudna has written the editorial, alarmed about the stories of a Russian scientists following the path of He Jiankui:

With a new such study under consideration in Russia, appropriate regulation is urgently needed.

However, it is clear that this case is different, as Denis Rebrikov consults his idea with public, seeks clinical approval from multiple institutions, and apparently, he is not at this moment close enough to start any type of experimental work.

Formally, many countries – including US and most of Europe – have laws imposed against germline genome editing in humans. Scientists around the world are discussing moratoria, which held them from work on germline genomes also in the countries, which do not explicitly ban such work. Doudna comments on that, writing:

I believe that moratoria are no longer strong enough countermeasures and instead, stakeholders must engage in thoughtfully crafting regulations of the technology without stifling it.

The full article is available here. We also recommend longer piece on bioethical pros and cons of designer babies.