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a photo of the Francis Crick Institute

photo by Miguel Descart licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In early March, I was in London, England for the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing. It was a welcome occasion to see friends and colleagues and to advance discussion and debate on research involving somatic, germline, and heritable human genome editing.

Somatic human genome editing involves the genetic modification of somatic (nonreproductive) cells. Changes made to these cells are not passed on to subsequent generations. Germline human genome editing involves the genetic modification of reproductive cells (eggs and sperm) or early stage (one-cell) embryos. This research occurs in the lab and when the research is done the modified cells are discarded. Heritable human genome editing involves the transfer of genetically modified reproductive cells to a uterus in the hope of creating genetically modified children.

In this brief commentary, I share my reflections on two of the many successes of the Third International Summit: (1) increased focus on the science, ethics, and governance of somatic human genome editing and (2) public acknowledgment of the need for further discussion and...