First in European Debate on Germline Gene Editing

WATCH THE RECORDING OF THE DEBATE FROM Thursday 17th September 2015
IT took place at our congress in Helsinki. 

The European Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ESGCT) has partnered with the Japanese and Finnish Societies for Gene and Cell Therapy (JSGT and FSGT respectively) and the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) to create an opportunity for people to come together to discuss the scientific, ethical and social issues around germline gene editing alongside its Annual Congress, 17-20 September 2015, Helsinki.

Scientists are rapidly developing highly accurate techniques for pinpointing and editing our genes. This technology holds promise for the effective treatment of many diseases, however we must proceed with caution. Not only is there still much work to be done to fine tune the system to avoid side effects, there are also serious ethical considerations pertinent to scientists and to society. The most controversial of these is the use of editing tools to manipulate the genes in embryonic cells (the so-called germ line) that would not only change the genetic code of an individual but also all their future children. To date, 25 countries have signed up to an agreement that prohibits the editing of human germline DNA because they have recognised that the technology is too new, safety information too limited and the potential for harm too unknown. There is also a broad moral question of whether it is right to manipulate germ line DNA.

In March 2015 a research group from China published what are thought to be the results of the first experiments editing human germline cells, causing outrage among the scientific community. We are now faced with an urgent need for a global strategy, informed by a wide reaching consultation with everyone from scientists to policy-makers to the public.

Chaired by eminent Professors Nathalie Cartier-Lacave and Seppo Ylä-Herttuala, the event will include talks by:

This is a first step in gathering the information and opinions needed to develop a unified approach to the use of gene editing technologies in human embryos. Members of the national and international media will be invited to attend.