The World Health Organisation issued new recommendations Monday on human genome editing, calling for a global registry to track “any form of genetic manipulation” and proposing a whistle-blowing mechanism to raise concerns about unethical or unsafe research.
The UN health agency commissioned an expert group in late 2018 following a dramatic announcement from Chinese scientist He Jiankui that he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies.
In two reports Monday, WHO’s expert group said all studies involving human genome editing should be made public, although the committee noted that wouldn’t necessarily stop unprincipled scientists.”
In the field of stem cell research, unscrupulous entrepreneurs and clinics have deliberately misused clinical trial registries by registering procedures they plan to undertake as if they were properly sanctioned clinical trials,” the group said, calling for WHO to ensure that all genetic editing research registered in their database are reviewed and approved by an ethics committee. When Chinese scientist He announced he had altered the DNA of twin babies to prevent them from catching HIV, he said the university where he worked was not aware and that he had funded the work himself. He was later sentenced to three years in jail for conducting “illegal medical practices.” WHO’s expert group also said the UN agency should develop ways to identify any potentially concerning gene editing trials, saying a mechanism should be developed “for reporting violations of research integrity.”