The Hastings Center has launched an international project that focuses on the social and ethical implications of using powerful gene editing methods on human germline cells (embryos, sperm, and eggs). Such methods would create permanent changes passed on from one generation to the next. These technologies, especially CRISPR-Cas9, have raised unprecedented hopes for benefiting human health, with scientists around the world working intensively with gene editing to find novel ways to treat cancer and other gene-based diseases.
However, gene editing also posessuch profound safety and ethical questions that some of the scientists who developed CRISPR-Cas9 called for amoratorium on its use in humans, providing time to consider whether and how to deploy it.
Leading the Hastings Center’s project are Erik Parens, a senior research scholar, and Josephine Johnston, director of research. Co-investigators are Gregory Kaebnick, a research scholar, and Mildred Z. Solomon, president. The three-year project, which is supported with nearly $1 million from the Templeton Foundation, will examine a variety of fundamental questions about how use of gene editing in humans might affect “human flourishing” and core human values such as love, compassion, acceptance, and respect for those with disability.
To address this broad set of questions, The Hastings Center is convening a multidisciplinary working group of leading scholars from around the world with backgrounds in medicine, genetics, social science, philosophy, moral psychology, and law. They will explore the potential implications of gene editing on a range of personal and societal issues in areas such as human reproduction, human enhancement, and social justice.