On 22 April, the Council held a workshop on genome editing to identify the main issues raised by advances in this area and to help define the scope of a new Council project. Genome editing techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9 allow precise, targeted changes to be made to DNA molecules in living cells.The event was chaired by Dr Andy Greenfield, Council member and Programme Leader in Developmental Genetics at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) research unit in Harwell.Over 30 people attended from a range of disciplines, including plant and agricultural science, human and animal genetics, biotechnology, ethics, law, philosophy, policy and regulation. Four speakers provided up-to-date information on genome editing techniques and progress in different fields:

  • Anthony Perry, Head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Molecular Embryology at the University of Bath gave a presentation on the scientific and technical aspects of current genome editing approaches, including areas of potential progress and obstacles.
  • Sebastian Schornack, Research Group Leader at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge discussed current and future applications of genome editing in plant science and agricultural biotechnology.
  • Bruce Whitelaw, Professor of Animal Biotechnology at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh presented on current and future applications in animals and livestock.
  • Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research gave an overview of current and future applications in humans.

The presentations were followed by group discussions on the ethical, social, legal and regulatory challenges in genome editing in different fields of application.Prior to the meeting, participants and others had been invited to submit 300 words in response to the question: 'What are the most important challenges raised by genome editing that the Nuffield Council on Bioethics should address?' and the responses were used as the departure point for the discussions around the tables. These included submissions by readers of our 'Nuff said blog. The meeting concluded with a lively discussion to identify the priority issues among all those discussed.The meeting was held under the Chatham House rule, and a note of the meeting is available to download here.Find out more about this projectDownload a background paper commissioned by the Council by Dr Ainsley Newson, University of Sydney, Australia and Dr Anthony Wrigley, Keele University UK.