Baltimore, et al. propose path forward for human germline engineering in Science

In a new perspectives piece in Science, Nobel Laureate David Baltimore and co-authors including Jennifer Doudna and George Church, chart a potential path forward for human genomic engineering involving germline modification. See also accompanying Bioethics piece by Gretchen Vogel as well, “Embryo engineering alarm”.

human germline editing policy

In the piece, entitled “A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification” calls for further discussion and assessment of key potential benefits and risks to moving forward with this technology. The illustration included here is from the piece.

The piece is reflective to a large extent of conclusions from a recent meeting held in Napa on this issue.

The summary statement is as follows:  “A framework for open discourse on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to manipulate the human genome is urgently needed.”

They make 4 more specific recommendations.

  1. Strongly discourage clinical application of this technology at this time.
  2. Create forums for education and discussion
  3. Encourage open research to evaluate the utility of CRISPR-Cas9 technology for both human and nonhuman model systems.
  4. Hold an international meeting to consider these issues and possibly make policy recommendation.

This statement seems mostly in synch with the recently released ISSCR statement, but perhaps not quite as strong as it does not call for a moratorium on clinical use as ISSCR does and instead “strongly discourages” such applications.

In addition, this piece by Baltimore, et al. conveys more of a sense of optimism and somewhat of a more relatively positive vision that eventually CRISPR-Cas9 human germline editing might have safe, effective and ethical clinical applications. Even so they are relatively cautious about that possibility:

“At present, the potential safety and efficacy issues arising from the use of this technology must be thoroughly investigated and understood before any at-tempts at human engineer-ing are sanctioned, if ever, for clinical testing.”

The full list of authors include David Baltimore, Paul Berg, Michael Botchan, Dana Carroll, R. Alta Charo, George Church, Jacob E. Corn, George Q. Daley, Jennifer A. Doudna, Marsha Fenner, Henry T. Greely, Martin Jinek, G. Steven Martin, Edward Penhoet, Jennifer Puck, Samuel H. Sternberg, Jonathan S. Weissman, and Keith R. Yamamoto.

One interesting thing to ponder is the potentially more diverse views amongst this list of scientists and bioethicists even though have come to a consensus clearly on key issues.

For example, in Vogel’s piece, Church is quoted with what might be viewed as somewhat of a dissent on at least one level:

“Those uncertainties, together with existing regulations, are sufficient to prevent responsible scientists from attempting any genetically altered babies, says George Church, a molecular geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Although he signed the Science commentary, he says the discussion “strikes me as a bit exaggerated.” He maintains that a de facto moratorium is in place for all technologies until they’re proven safe. “The challenge is to show that the benefits are greater than the risks.”

What are your thoughts on this new Science paper and the ISSCR statement, both out today?

Vote For Stem Cell Person of the Year 2013 to Determine Finalists

Stem Cell SymbolHappy Stem Cell Day!

I’m using this occasion to introduce today an important element of my new book, Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide, and that is a new international stem cell symbol and logo (see at right).

More on that later this week.

Also on this day, online voting begins on a great group of nominees for the Stem Cell Person of the Year 2013.

Please vote in the poll below on your choice from the list as to who should be the semifinalists.

You can vote up to 4 times in any 24-hour period.

Voting will close in 2 weeks on Wednesday October 16 at 11:59PM PT.

The top group of 12 vote getters will move on in the process as Finalists.

You can read a bit about each nominee in alphabetical order by first name with one or two sentences about them, often taken from the nominator(s) here. 

Feel free to post comments on your favorites.



Nominees for Stem Cell Person of the Year 2013: scientists, advocates, physicians, and the Pope

Nominations for Stem Cell Person of the Year 2013 closed last night.

stem cell logo

I ended up with a remarkable list of 30 nominees.

I have included a few sentences about each one below, often taking verbiage directly from the nominator.

The online voting on these nominees will start soon. The top vote getters will move on as finalists.

Stay tuned!

Nominees in alphabetical order by first name.

Alexey Bersenev. Leading blogger, expert, and global educator about clinical applications of stem cells. Thoughtful, knowledgeable, and balanced approach to the field.

Beth Brinkmann. Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the US who led the administration’s successful case in Sherley v. Sebelius, the case challenging the legality of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Chris Centeno. Physician doing stem cell treatments, founder of predecessor to ICMS, and a leader in efforts aimed at FDA reform to broaden the use of stem cells.

Don C. Reed. Tireless spinal cord injury and stem cell research advocate instrumental in the creation of CIRM and promotion of innovative stem cell research. An unsung hero. Blogger and frequent speaker at stem cell meetings.

Duane Roth (posthumous). Energetic Vice Chair of CIRM Board and leader of CONNECT, an organization promoting entrepreneurship in the San Diego area. Passed away at age 63 on August 4, 2013 from injuries sustained from a cycling accident during a fund raising event.

Elena Cattaneo. Professor of Pharmacology and Director of UniStem, the Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Milano, Italy. Took a courageous stand on the Stamina case and is the driving force behind UniStem Day. A “Senator for life” member of Italian Senate, meaning appointed for the rest of her life as a Senator.

George Q. Daley. Leading stem cell researcher, Professor at Harvard, Director of Stem Cell Transplantation Program HHMI/Children’s Hospital Boston, and former ISSCR President. Outstanding voice for the stem cell field.

Hideki Taniguchi. Scientist who led the team that made the first bioengineered micro-liver like structures that have functional properties with huge clinical implications for the future treatment of liver disease, an enormous growing problem in the world.

Hongkui Deng. First stem cell researcher to achieve all chemical cellular reprogramming to make iPS cells, which may lead to safer iPS cell-based therapies.

Jacob Hanna. His lab at the Weizmann Institute has reported the first essentially perfect reprogramming efficiency to make iPS cells with big clinical implications.

Jeff Sheehy. Member of CIRM Governing Board. HIV/AIDS patient advocate. Communications Director of UCSF AIDS Research Institute. Very effective, wise advocate for stem cell research.

Joanne Kurtzberg. Professor and Co-Director of Stem Cell Laboratory at Duke. Pioneering stem cell researcher in the area of clinical application of stem cell technology.

Juergen Knoblich.  Scientist who led the team that made first human “mini-brains” from stem cells, a discovery that could have far-reaching medical implications.

Lee Buckler. Global stem cell and cellular therapy expert who is also a dedicated educator and advocate for advancing the field. Makes real things happen in the stem cell field.

Leigh Turner. Bioethicist who has been leading efforts for appropriate FDA regulation of stem cell therapies. A powerful advocate for ethical stem cell research and protection of patients.

Manuel Serrano.  Scientist who led the team that conducted in vivo reprogramming to make iPS cells in living mice. This innovative work could help make in vivo reprogramming-based medicines a reality in human patients.

Marion (Joe) Riggs. Founder of Student Society for Stem Cell Research (SSSCR). Scientist and advocate who is strongly dedicated to educational outreach and inclusivity in the stem cell field.

Masayo Takahashi. Scientist leading the first ever in human iPS cell-based clinical trial. Vision researcher who may help develop new treatments for blindness and vision impairment.

Patricia Olson. Executive Director of Scientific Activities at CIRM and active in CIRM scientific leadership from day 1. A driving force in the stem cell field.

Pope Francis. Leader of Worldwide Catholic Church. Strong supporter of adult stem cell researcher.

Robert Klein. Visionary stem cell advocate. Leader of successful Prop. 71 effort that led to formation of CIRM and now Chair Emeritus of CIRM ICOC Board.

Robert Lanza. CSO of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and top global stem cell thought leader. The man who will make regenerative medicine a household word.

Robin Smith. CEO of NeoStem, biotech company focusing on therapies developed using adult stem cells including VSELs. Innovator and pioneer in the stem cell field.

Sabrina Cohen.  Spinal cord injury patient and stem cell research advocate for more than a decade as well as amazing educator and motivational speaker.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov. Scientist whose lab published the first successful human somatic cell nuclear transfer-based human therapeutic cloning to make human ES cells, the most important research development in stem cells of 2013. Also pursuing research into oocyte transfer-based therapies for mitochondrial disorders.

Sonia Vallabh. Incredibly brave advocate for stem cell research. Stem cell scientist at Mass General Hospital. Co-Founder of Prion Alliance and

Sonia Skarlatos (posthumous). Long-time scientific leader at NIH with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute where she was a tireless supporter of stem cell research. Passed away at age 59 on August 6, 2013.

Susan Solomon. Co-Founder and CEO of The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). Remarkably effective advocate for stem cell research.

Ted Harada. Leading stem cell research advocate and very effective ALS patient advocate. Brings unmatched energy and enthusiasm to the field. Promoting intelligent reforms to the FDA process for stem cells.

Ulrich Mueller. Stem cell researcher and Chair, Dept. of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at Scripps.

Disclosures. Only those nominees listed above will be voted on starting this week. Some other nominations were also sent to me that I chose for various reasons not to move forward on and hence those nominees are not listed. It is also important to note that I do not endorse any specific nominee and just because someone is a nominee does not mean I support all of their specific efforts. I also do not necessarily agree with all the language used to describe the candidates.