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Genome Editing Technologies: Ethical and Medical Issues

25 February 2020
Технологии геномного редактирования: этические и медицинские аспекты

The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation hosted a roundtable in Moscow titled ‘Genome Editing Technologies: Ethical and Medical Issues’ as part of a series of scientific events dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the birth of Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Academician Yevgeny Velikhov. The event was attended by Deputy Head of the Russian President’s Office for Scientific and Educational Policy Yelena Nechayeva, State Duma Deputy and Member of the State Duma Committee for Health Protection Alexander Petrov, Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University Rector Sergey Lukyanov, Director of the Koltsov Biology Development Institute under the RAS Andrey Vasilyev, Director of the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics under the RAS Alexander Kudryavtsev, and Director of the Medical Genetic Research Centre, President of the Association of Medical Genetics of Russia, and Chief External Expert on Medical Genetics at the Russian Ministry of Health Sergey Kutsev, among others. The roundtable was organized by the Content Foundation for the Development of Expert and Analytical Activities, with the support of the Roscongress Foundation, the Russian Association for the Promotion of Science, and the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation.

The global scientific community views gene editing technologies as a unique tool that promises breakthroughs in agriculture, industrial biotechnology, and medicine. Many laboratories around the world are researching the use of this technology for the treatment of hereditary, oncological, infectious, and autoimmune diseases. In particular, gene editing technology is one of the main approaches to the development of personalized treatment of diseases.

«Today we can say with certainty that editing the human genome is our future. We will get to this point sooner or later. It’s already important now to develop a national programme that would also include the creation of a federal state register — a gene bank and a bank of mutations. Developing such a programme is a matter of protecting the genetic data of Russians, the national security of citizens, and biosafety», Petrov said.

The roundtable participants noted that issues concerning legal support and bioethics not only require the involvement the expert and scientific community, but the general public as well. Both experts and society are currently focusing on the effectiveness of any new technology, its safety, and clinical feasibility. The prospect of new genetically modified plants and farm animals emerging, the feasibility of changing the structure of the genome of embryos, discussions about the creation of so-called ‘designer babies’, the formation of new forms of social inequality, and interference with the evolution of humanity as a whole require a comprehensive discussion.

«The question of applying gene editing technologies cannot solely be solved by the scientific community. This issue requires a comprehensive examination. We need to not only take into account the medical genetic aspects, but bioethical aspects as well. Discussion platforms that bring together the expert community, representatives of the government, and public organizations play an important role in searching for optimal solutions to regulate such a complex, yet promising area of ​​science as gene editing», Content Foundation Director Yelena Sokolova said.

The Content Foundation for the Development of Expert and Analytical Activities was established by the Roscongress Foundation with the aim of laying the foundations for a healthy society and Russia’s sustainable social development. The Foundation organizes industry events, implements educational and awareness-raising programmes, and also provides expert and analytical support.