Genome editing: an ethical review


Published 30/09/2016

Short guide front cover Page 01
Genome editing techniques such as the CRISPR-Cas9 system are transforming many areas of biological research.
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Most uses of genome editing have so far been in scientific research – for example to investigate models of human disease. However, given that genome editing has the potential to alter any DNA sequence, whether in a bacterium, plant, animal or human being, it has an almost limitless range of possible applications in living things.

This review considers the impact of recent advances in genome editing, which have diffused rapidly across many fields of biological research, and the range of ethical questions to which they give rise. It was carried out by an interdisciplinary Working Group that included expertise in science, law, philosophy, ethics, sociology and industry. In coming to its conclusions, the Working Group invited contributions from a wide range of people, including through an open call for evidence that ran from November 2015 until February 2016.

The review sets out our preliminary findings on the impact of genome editing across different areas of biological research and applications, and the range of questions to which this gives rise.

In this report, we identified two applications of genome editing technologies that require urgent ethical scrutiny and which we will investigate further as two distinct inquiries: