Research into genetic technologies is a global endeavour. Research, development and deployment of genetic technologies in one country influences the research context in others. It is therefore imperative that countries work together to develop international norms, protocols and codes of conduct for genetic technologies research.
To this end, the Royal Society has been working with academies from around the world, including China, the USA and the African Academy of Sciences, to promote the international discussion of genetic technologies. This work is helping to inform national and international regulators as they consider what rules to put in place to govern the use of genetic technologies.
An international commission was convened by the UK’s Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Medicine, with the participation of academies of sciences and medicine from around the world. The commission’s aim was to develop principles, criteria and standards for the clinical use of genome editing of the human germline, should it be considered to be acceptable by society.
The Royal Society has worked with the US National Academy of Sciences and Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong to organise a series of international summits on human genome editing. These bring together world-leading experts to examine the potential benefits and significant ethical and societal issues associated with advances in human genome-editing research.
The first of these summits was held in Washington in 2015 and the second in Hong Kong in 2018. The Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing will be held in London on 6-8 March 2023.
Synthetic biology re-designs and re-purposes biological systems to explore how these systems work and to respond to challenges by producing new molecules or organisms. The Royal Society has been working with scientists and national and international academies to highlight the importance of continued research within this area, including gene drives, and will continue to identify and analyse the issues that need to be addressed to ensure the societal benefits of the technologies are maximised and risks minimised.