This panel explores the social dimensions of gene editing technologies. The panel aims to foster discussion of emerging practices and controversies and to reflect on overlaps and parallels with existing technologies, such as synthetic biology, stem cell research or genetic testing.
The development of a new generation of gene editing technologies is making the genetic modification of living organisms - from bacteria, to plants, animals and humans, including human germ cells and embryos - into an affordable, fast and relatively simple matter. Gene editing technologies are relatively cheap and easy to apply. In principle, CRISPR-based genetic modifications in living organisms require only a basic knowledge of molecular biology and basic lab equipment. This increases the likelihood of uncontrolled applications, including DIY biology applications and the emergence of grey area commercial practices - beyond regulatory controls of state governments, and outside of the professional codes of elite scientists and scientific organizations. Such instances of science and technology "by other means" might well give grounds for apprehension. This panel seeks to explore the social, regulatory and political dimensions of gene editing technologies, across a variety of potential applications. These range from the genetic modification of human germ cells, to the genetic modification of animals and animal models, to gene drive applications that aim to change wild type populations, and the genetic modifications of bacteria and other micro-biological life forms. The panel aims to foster discussion of emerging practices and technology applications in the above areas and to reflect on overlaps and parallels with existing technology, such synthetic biology, stem cell research or forms of genetic testing. It seeks furthermore to generate insights into public perceptions and debates on these technology applications, and to identity challenges to international governance.