Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

NIH Expresses Support for Germline Editing Moratorium

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — The National Institutes of Health today expressed its support for a proposed international moratorium on the clinical use of germline editing pending the establishment of guidelines for such research.

In Nature this week, researchers from seven countries — including the Broad Institute's Eric Lander, Max Planck's Emmanuelle Charpentier, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Feng Zhang — issued a call for a moratorium until a governance framework to guide the use of heritable genome editing can be crafted. They specifically cite the recently reported use of germline editing by a Chinese researcher to create two babies immune to HIV as an example of the need for such a framework.

"We do not mean a permanent ban," the scientists wrote. "Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, while retaining the right to make their own decisions, voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met."

In a correspondence appearing in Nature, NIH Director Francis Collins and NIH Office of Science Policy Director Carrie Wolinetz state that they strongly support the proposed moratorium, as well as the proposed process that nations could consider in the future to determine whether necessary conditions to lift the moratorium have been met.

"This is a crucial moment in the history of science: a new technology offers the potential to rewrite the script of human life," they wrote. "We think that human gene editing for reproductive purposes carries very serious consequences — social, ethical, philosophical and theological. Such great consequences deserve deep reflection … [and] a substantive debate about benefits and risks that provides opportunities for multiple segments of the world's diverse population to take part has not yet happened."