In May, both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the White House voiced concern over ethical issues associated with using gene-editing technology to alter the human germline. The White House Office of Scientific Assessment further stated that, “the Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.” The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy seconded the NIH’s position.
Intellia agrees with this position and will continue to be part of the discussion that NIH and the White House called for. We have not, and will not, pursue germline (reproductive cell) editing until such time, if ever, that scientists and society agree that it is safe and ethical to do so.
Intellia and others in our industry recognize the need for open discussion of the merits and risks of human genome modification among a broad cohort of scientists, clinicians, social scientists, the general public and relevant interest groups. Like many, Intellia believes that issues surrounding human genome engineering must not impede efforts to rapidly advance gene-editing technologies for its most immediate and relevant purpose – to find cures and treatments for patients suffering from intractable diseases.
CRISPR/Cas9 and other gene editing approaches have rightfully been lauded as “the biggest biotech discovery of the century.” Therapeutic applications of gene editing that can benefit patients are already being evaluated in research to treat forms of cancer, blindness, and blood, brain and muscle disorders.
The focus of our work at Intellia is, and will continue to be, on finding treatments that help patients who suffer today.