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About United Kingdom Policies & Human Biotechnology


The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), established in 1991, is often considered a model for regulating and overseeing human biotechnologies. It licenses and monitors all research involving human embryos, and all facilities offering in vitro fertilization or storage of eggs, sperm, or embryos. UK law does not permit certain activities involving human embryos.

The HFEA's 21 members are appointed by UK Health Ministers; at least half of them are required to be neither doctors nor scientists involved in human embryo research or infertility treatment.

To grant a research license, the HFEA must be satisfied that the use of human embryos is "necessary or desirable" for an enumerated purpose. The HFEA inspects licensed clinics annually; produces a Code of Practice that guides clinics on proper conduct; keeps a formal registry for donors, treatments, and children born; and conducts public consultations on controversial applications.



Who's Advising the Government on Human Genetics?by Alice MaynardBioNewsJune 29th, 2015A diversity of voices is needed to hold the UK government accountable, instead of relying upon experts to predict long-term consequences no one can accurately foresee.
UK Seeks Regulatory Advice for “Mitochondrial Replacement,” Fails to Mention Cross-Generational Implicationsby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJune 17th, 2015How does one go about regulating the world’s first cross-generational biological experiment in human germline modification? The regulating body in charge isn’t exactly sure.
Gene Editing of Human Embryos – More Ethical Questions to Answerby Dr Calum MacKellarBioNewsMay 11th, 2015It is clear that the safety and efficiency of gene-editing procedures on early embryos give rise to significant biomedical challenges. Ethical questions also need to be addressed.
Can we Still Rely on DNA Sampling to Crack Crime?by Danny ShawBBC NewsMay 5th, 2015The new arrangements are so convoluted that even the man responsible for overseeing them has cast doubt as to whether they can work effectively and fairly.
Gene Therapy's 'Temporary Benefits' for Retina DiseaseBBCMay 4th, 2015Two trials of gene therapy on an inherited form of blindness in children have shown some patients' eyesight can be improved - but only temporarily.
Hi-Tech DNA Machines Cause Concernby Oscar QuineThe IndependentApril 26th, 2015Police forces across the UK are testing technology that allows officers to analyse DNA samples in custody suites, amid fears that civil liberties could be infringed and evidence compromised.
With World Watching, UK Allows Experiments to Genetically Alter Babiesby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 4th, 2015Despite several possibly insurmountable legal and safety hurdles, the House of Lords gave the final approval needed to move into fertility clinics the embryo modification techniques referred to as “mitochondrial donation.”
Reproduction 3.0by Leah RamsayBerman Institute of Bioethics BulletinFebruary 26th, 2015Bioethics scholars discuss the science and ethics of the UK vote to allow mitochondrial manipulation procedures.
Mitochondrial Gene Therapy Passes Final U.K. Vote[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Gretchen VogelScience InsiderFebruary 24th, 2015The technique is controversial because the modified DNA would be passed on to future generations.
The Truth about Mitochondrial Replacementby Françoise BaylisImpact EthicsFebruary 23rd, 2015If we are to have honest conversation about possible benefits and harms of mitochondrial replacement, we should start by acknowledging that discussions to date have been a distraction.
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