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Gene Editing and Human Flourishing

Principal Investigators: Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston

Co-Investigators: Gregory Kaebnick and Mildred Z. Solomon

Funder: John Templeton Foundation

This international project focuses on the potential social and ethical implications of using gene editing methods on human germline cells (sperm, eggs, and embryos), creating changes that would be passed on from one generation to the next.  A new gene editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9 has radically simplified our ability to change genomes. It holds enormous potential for improving human health. However, it also raises such profound questions that some of the scientists who developed CRISPR-Cas9 called for a moratorium on its use in humans, providing time to consider whether and how to deploy it.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is currently developing recommendations that will primarily examine the safety of this technology. Our project is designed to be complementary and will ask a variety of fundamental questions about how use of gene editing in humans might affect “human flourishing”  – core human values and ways of being such as love, compassion, acceptance, respect for those with disability, and humility. The project will produce original scholarship, including the publication of a book on the potential societal and ethical implications of human gene editing, authored by an international set of scholars in philosophy, history of science, sociology and the humanities. Other components of the project are public events, initiatives to support journalists who write about gene editing, and professional development for teachers.