George Church, professor at Harvard Medical School, was one of the organizers of a closed meeting on synthetic genomes.

Over 130 scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and government officials from five continents gathered at Harvard this week for an “exploratory” meeting to discuss the topic of creating genomes from scratch — including, but not limited to, those of humans, said George Church, Harvard geneticist and co-organizer of the meeting.

The meeting was closed to the press, which drew the ire of prominent academics.


The meeting was held Tuesday “to discuss the concept of an international project focused on large genome synthesis as the next chapter in our understanding of the blueprint of life,” according to a consensus statement from the organizers provided by Church.


Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, based in Berkeley, Calif., said that the “semi-secret” nature of the meeting runs counter to the principles established in December at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing. That group, which included scientists, ethicists, patient advocates, regulators, and others, decided that clinical work on making changes to human genomes that could be inherited should not proceed until there is “broad societal consensus about the... see more