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One Year On

It's been a year since researcher He Jiankui announced that he had used CRISPR to alter the genomes of two twin girls as embryos, and CRISPR researcher Jennifer Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley, writes at Science that that moment was "an unsettling push into an era that will test how society decides to use this revolutionary technology."

The scientific community largely decried He's work, with some calling it "stupendously unethical." It also led to organizations like the World Health Organization to move to develop guidelines for gene editing and a registry of such work and the US National Academy of Medicine, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the UK's Royal Society to establish a commission to develop a framework to regulate gene editing. At the same time, some researchers have called for a ban on germline gene editing.

With the one-year anniversary of the announcement upon us, Doudna says efforts to establish safeguards are "encouraging." She argues, though, that moratoria won't work, and that regulations governing the use of genome editing are instead needed to oversee the fast-paced field.

"Consequences for defying established restrictions should include, at a minimum, loss of funding and publication privileges," Doudna adds. "Ensuring responsible use of genome editing will enable CRISPR technology to improve the well-being of millions of people and fulfill its revolutionary potential."