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Safeguards for laboratory gene drive research

posted Jul 31, 2015, 7:15 PM by Kevin Esvelt   [ updated Oct 25, 2016, 9:29 AM ]
I recently convened a diverse group of scientists from relevant fields, including those who published a drive-based genome editing method at UCSD in March, to agree on recommended safeguards for gene drive research in the laboratory. After months of discussion, the resulting manuscript was published in Science today.

It's clear that our recommendations were the product of a committee, or at least the academic equivalent. Opinions differed, and we had to compromise. It's fair to say that were it up to me alone, the recommendations would have erred a bit more on the side of caution. This may be because I've had more time to think about the implications and the morality of the situation, it could be a generational thing, or I might simply take the issue more seriously because in many ways I am responsible: when it comes to detailing RNA-guided gene drives, I chose to open the box.

In any case, the space constraints imposed by Science were a major obstacle to our effort, which was intended to prevent accidents while the formal National Academy of Science panel (which I was privileged to address yesterday) develops definitive guidelines. I've consequently written a more detailed analysis of the issues in order to assist that effort. I will revise this analysis periodically as the field advances in theory and experiment.