Bioethics Blogs

Gene gibbering

On 1 December the statesmen and -women of molecular biology will meet in Washington, DC, for a three-day international summit on human gene editing, sponsored by the US National Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the UK’s Royal Society. The meeting coincides with the publication of an open call for evidence to inform our own current genome editing project.

The Washington meeting is the latest, and perhaps the grandest, of a series of such meetings that have taken place since CRISPR-based genome editing systems seemingly re-wrote the future of life science research in just a few years, since their appearance in 2012. Their rapid uptake and diffusion has been accompanied by earnest and inreasingly anxious discussions about how we should think about this emerging technology, and the proper mode and limits of governance. From Manchester to Strasbourg, Cairo, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Washington, groups of scientists and fellow travellers have been recombining to elaborate an anticipatory political epistemology of genome editing. (I have written about some of these initiatives in previous posts on this blog.) The character of these meetings has evolved uncertainly to include researchers from outside the natural sciences, policy makers, industry and civil society actors. That knowledgeable and interested people are talking about the broader implications and governance of genome editing is important, but there are two things that I think should be borne in mind.

The first is that genome editing is both a tool for basic research and a technology that assembles knowledges, practices, products and applications.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.