We thank the organizing committee of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, held this week in Hong Kong, for planning an important and timely conference on a rapidly advancing area of science and medicine. We support the committee’s concluding statement, which reiterates the need for the global scientific and medical communities to continue to work together to further define responsible approaches to human genome editing research and clinical use.
This is especially true given the unexpected announcement this week from a researcher in China claiming to have edited the embryonic genomes of newborn twins. The summit addressed this troubling revelation and underscored guidance that was provided in a 2017 report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine. That report outlined criteria under which clinical trials and applications of germline editing might be permitted, but only when there is compelling medical need with a clear understanding of risks versus benefits, and only under stringent oversight, with sufficient transparency and public input. Not following these guidelines would be an irresponsible act.
The summit heard the claim by the researcher and discussed its potentially profound implications. We share the organizing committee’s deep concerns that the researcher did not follow guidelines such as those recommended in the 2017 National Academies report, or other international norms of responsible scientific conduct.
We are committed to continuing to provide leadership on the responsible pursuit of human genome editing research and applications, and to work together with our colleagues at other Academies around the world to host additional forums and to develop future guidelines. The events in Hong Kong this week clearly demonstrate the need for us to develop more specific standards and principles that can be agreed upon by the international scientific community. We look forward to joining others on the path forward called for by the organizing committee.
Marcia McNutt, President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Victor J. Dzau, President of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine