Over the last two decades, approaches to genome editing have evolved and become more widely studied and implemented. Most recently, the CRISPR/Cas9 system has made the technology more accessible, precise and less expensive, meaning scientific interest in potential applications in humans also has increased exponentially. However, policymakers and geneticists alike, as well as the public, express significant concerns about the ethical, legal and social challenges and potential consequences of human genome editing to prevent, treat and cure disease and disability. A major new, $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow a research team from Baylor College of Medicine and Arizona State University to evaluate recent developments in human genome editing and associated responses from the public and scientific communities to develop recommendations for how to responsibly govern such research and technologies in the future.
“Clinical applications of human genome editing should not proceed without increased public input and awareness,” said Dr. Christopher T. Scott, the Dalton Tomlin Chair of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. “This has been a long-understood consensus among ethics and science policy scholars, yet little has been done to address it, until now. We are taking the first steps necessary to study this process.”
The grant pairs Baylor’s strengths in bioethics, science policy and the study of the implications of emerging technologies and clinical research with the University of Arizona’s renowned expertise in foresight, public engagement and participatory governance.
“It is a great privilege to work with Baylor on this project, which – as many organizations including the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recognize – is critical to the governance of human gene editing,” said Dr. David Guston, Foundation Professor and Founding Director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at the University of Arizona.