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Next Stage for Gene Editing

The New York Times editorial board writes that the gene-editing tool CRISPR has the potential to prevent numerous genetic diseases, but that in the wake of He Jiankui's widely condemned announcement that he edited the genomes of two twin girls, the field isn't quite certain how to proceed.

The Times editorial board commends US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for planning a global forum on gene editing, and suggests that the field not only engage policymakers, ethicists, social scientists, but also the public. It argues that including the public — which is largely in favor of using gene editing to prevent an incurable or fatal genetic disease, according to an Associated Press poll — helps develop better and more sustainable policies and eliminate distrust.

The board also argues there are more nuanced ways to approach the use of gene editing than the current moratorium in the US on editing human embryos.

"Lawmakers, regulatory agencies, patent holders, ethics review boards, funding foundations, and professional journals all hold sway over how a technology is developed and used," the editorial board writes. "By working together to limit what is funded, permitted or published, they might create a dynamic and flexible process for safeguarding the public while still allowing promising work to progress."