Royal Society joins US and Chinese science academies for summit on human gene editing

14 September 2015

The Chinese Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and the Royal Society are co-hosting an international summit on human gene editing to be held between 1-3 December in Washington, D.C.

The summit will look at the scientific, medical, ethical, and governance issues associated with advances in human gene-editing research.  An organizing committee has been appointed to develop an agenda for the summit, which will bring together experts from a variety of disciplines.

“Human gene editing offers great promise for improving human health and wellbeing but it also raises significant ethical and societal issues.  It is vital that we have a well-informed international debate about the potential benefits and risks and this summit can hopefully set the tone for that discussion.”
Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society.

Chinese Academy of Sciences President Chunli Bai said, “Both Chinese scientists and the government are aware of the pros and cons of human gene editing.  CAS scientists have organized a panel discussion and coordinated with related government agencies for regulatory policies on this issue.  We would like to work together with international communities for the proper regulation and application of such technology.”

“We are very pleased that our counterparts in China and the U.K. are joining us in this effort,” said U.S. NAS President Ralph J. Cicerone and U.S. NAM President Victor J. Dzau in a joint statement.  “Their co-sponsorship of the summit reflects a growing recognition among global scientific and medical communities that we need to work together to develop a better understanding of the implications of advances in human gene editing so that more informed decisions about the use of this research can be made worldwide.”

In the UK, editing the genes in human eggs, sperm or early embryos in a clinical setting is illegal but the technique can be used for research purposes in early embryos maintained in culture for up to 14 days. 

In May, the U.S. Academies launched a major initiative to inform decision making related to new gene-editing technologies that offer the promise of novel ways to treat disease but that also raise concerns, particularly about their potential use to modify the human germline.  In addition to the summit, the initiative will include a comprehensive study of human gene editing by a separate committee, which will issue a report next year with recommendations to guide the responsible use of such research.

The summit planning committee is being chaired by Nobel laureate David Baltimore, president emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.  A full list of Committee members follows.  For updates on the summit agenda and a description of issues to be addressed, visit

The members of the committee planning the international summit are:

David Baltimore (chair)
President Emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology
California Institute of Technology, USA

Françoise Baylis 
Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy 
Dalhousie University, Canada

Paul Berg
Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus
Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA

George Q. Daley
Samuel E. Lux IV Professor of Hematology and Oncology, and
Stem Cell Transplantation Program
Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, USA

Jennifer A. Doudna
Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and
Professor, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology,
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley, USA

Eric S. Lander
President and Director
The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, USA

Robin Lovell-Badge
Group Leader and Head
Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics
The Francis Crick Institute, London, United Kingdom

Pilar Ossorio
Professor of Law and Bioethics
University of Wisconsin, USA

Duanqing Pei
Professor and Director General
Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health
Chinese Academy of Sciences

Adrian Thrasher
Professor of Paediatric Immunology
University College London, United Kingdom

Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker 
Secretary General
International Human Frontier Science Program Organization
Strasbourg, France

Qi Zhou
Professor and Deputy Director
Institute of Zoology
Chinese Academy of Sciences