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Biotech

Washington Hosts Summit On Gene Editing and 'Designer Babies' (washingtonpost.com) 137

An anonymous reader sends word that a three-day summit has begun in Washington to discuss the future of genetic engineering. It has a particular focus on the CRISPR technique, which has made gene editing quicker and more robust than ever before. "The reason CRISPR is so controversial is that it works well on 'germline' cells, such as sperm, eggs and embryonic cells, and the genetic editing results in heritable traits. Many scientific organizations have called for a time-out on any experiments on human cells, fearing that this crosses into dicey ethical territory. This meeting in Washington could potentially generate a new call for restraint, or some guidelines in how to handle the explosive technology." Many scientists, lawyers, and policymakers are present at the summit to try to reach consensus on how the scientific community should proceed with such research, and how the fruits of their research should be used. Professor Alta Charo said, "The more we can have effective systems for responsible oversight for the development and deployment of a technology, the more we can take chances. We have the chance to back up at the end, and change course."
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Washington Hosts Summit On Gene Editing and 'Designer Babies'

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  • It's too late for my kids - but I could have augments for grandkids.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 )
      And when there is an "oops", and your grandkid grows a 3rd eye?
      Or even worse, the corporation now has a patent on your little cherubs cells, and actually owns them

      You go right ahead and let them experiment on your progeny.
      • That's why it needs to be aggressively supported with funding - to identify the potential dangers before being used on humans.
      • And when there is an "oops", and your grandkid grows a 3rd eye?

        Well, to be honest, that's what the proverbial "hot clothes hanger" is for.....

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        And when there is an "oops", and your grandkid grows a 3rd eye?

        You don't know much about genetics, do you?

        Or even worse, the corporation now has a patent on your little cherubs cells, and actually owns them

        Complete and utter strawman.

      • And when there is an "oops", and your grandkid grows a 3rd eye?

        Then the entire family never has to work again over the proceeds of the lawsuit, and little "Blinky" becomes the most revered member of the family, for time immemorial.

        Not seeing a problem, here.

    • by mi ( 197448 )

      Why are we not funding this?

      We — the taxpayers — funding anything is a sure way of keeping it perpetually expensive and otherwise unobtainable.

      What you want to ask is, why do various busybodies consider it ethical to ban such procedures to others.

    • Why are we not funding this?

      Because there's ethical concerns to doing the sort of thing that is necessary to eliminate cancer and other nasty genetic disorders, and to reduce the rate of other genetic predispositions such as heart disease, diabetes, and violent crime, and the way to bring mankind to new levels of health and strength and intellect. I think the primary ethical concern is "they might look down on us".

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Eliminate sickle cell, and grant tetrachromacy and 6-fingers to everyone (along with flawless teeth).

        Though the last I read on teeth, you get the choice of an acidic mouth, which has tooth decay, but no gum disease, and reduced bad breath, or a more basic mouth with low tooth decay, but increased gum disease and bad breath. But at least, you can get 32 healthy teeth in, rather than all the work to pull 4 of them many people go through.

        Sure, once they get the process down, some people will design super-at
  • Our country is too fond of market-based solutions to matters like this. Once (at least) one company finds a way to make a lot of money off of this, the discussion will be over and we will convince ourselves that it is for the better.

    Arguably the bigger loss is in the fact that it will force even more scientists away from ethically sound research and into profit-driven work instead because there won't be any other careers.
    • The entire pharmaceutical industry is based around market-based solutions. Now, I'm not saying it doesn't have its warts--Big Pharm has waay too much influence, doctors and medical researchers do not understand basic statistics, and the entire industry needs better regulation, and everything needs to be more affordable--but when you consider the drugs and procedures we have today to what was prevalent even thirty years ago, it's hard to deny we've made progress.

      So I personally have no problem with "market-b

      • The medical system is absolutely not market based, unless you are attempting to change the definition of market to be "marketing" and psychological manipulation.

        I'm not a full on anarchist because the Government has a role in my opinion. The role is extremely limited in my mind, but does exist. That said, the Government has caused nearly everything else to fail for all but a select few. The Government regulation system is a forced at gunpoint monopoly. If you want to play you have to pay, and if you are

        • by mi ( 197448 )

          Pass a law allowing or denying the activity.

          May we, please, remain spared of laws allowing things — everything, not explicitly prohibited is allowed, and that's how things ought to be.

          Himmler and Hitler creaming all over themselves

          Though Nazis really did Eugenics a great disservices, there is nothing obviously wrong with it.

          "Rich" babies will all be 6' or taller kids with 130+ IQs and the "trendy" bits

          Like the children of sports star-and-a-model unions? Or like the children of dedicated parents, spend

          • Nazi eugenics was incompetent. They had a poor understanding of science and cared little even about that - it was driven by political concerns only.

        • by BranMan ( 29917 )

          I find I am in disagreement with you. Having more tall people, with more trendy bits, with IQs over 130 in the population than we have currently should be encouraged - regardless of the source. Bring the average UP for a change I say!

      • The entire pharmaceutical industry is based around market-based solutions. .

        You are kidding right?

        If I have strep throat, I have to go to an AMA approved doctor, which has a government enforced monopoly on licensing medical practice. I cannot simply pay for his service, I must pay a lot of middle men in my government mandated insurance or get a fine from the IRS, in order to get a prescription to go to a government licensed pharmacy, where I must wait about 1 hour for getting government mandated confirmation to get an FDA approved dose of amoxicillin. All this red tape means tha

        • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

          You know what market based solution looks like?

          I'd assume it looks a lot like it did before the FDA. Like that one case where someone made cough syrup using diethylene glycol, which was known to be poisonous at the time. The company's owner claimed that he shouldn't be held responsible because there was no law that the company had to prove that their drug wasn't harmful.

          So now there is a law. Sorry, don't blame us, blame the companies who fucked it up first.

          • by mi ( 197448 )

            The company's owner claimed that he shouldn't be held responsible because there was no law that the company had to prove that their drug wasn't harmful.

            B.S. There should be no need to prove, it is not harmful — prosecutors merely needed to prove, he knew the stuff was poisonous.

            And, even if they failed, the wrongful death civil suit should still have bankrupted his company.

            So now there is a law. Sorry, don't blame us

            Yeah, a typical statist approach to things: "Something must be done. This is somethin [wikipedia.org]

      • doctors and medical researchers do not understand basic statistics

        That is a sweeping generalization that would most likely come from someone who themselves does not understand basic statistics. In the case of the former group, many physicians opt to take statistics in undergrad (instead of calculus) and have had at least a full year before starting med school. Med school curriculum is often rather statistics-heavy, as well. There may be some older physicians still running around who had little or no statistics exposure on their way to MD, but they are in the minority.

    • Our country is too fond of market-based solutions to matters like this.

      America's market based solutions provide the medical breakthroughs that benefit the whole world. Profit driven research has a far better track record than the alternative.

      we will convince ourselves that it is for the better.

      Many of us are already convinced it is for the better. Genetic diseases can be devastating, and financially ruinous. How can curing them not be "for the better"? If we can also make kids smarter, that is good too. Sure, there may be an occasional error, but we already get those from cosmic rays, and we live with it.

      it will force even more scientists away from ethically sound research and into profit-driven work instead

      Profits are not une

      • You're arguing that the track record for profit-driven research is far better than the alternative, but it's the results of government-funded basic science research that are described in the article. These results are the ones leading to the potential of the profit you admire at the (arguable, depending on perspective) expense of the entire natural human gene pool. Really, what profit-driven research in the last 30 years has the same potential for changing the world as this basic science discovery? NIH fund
    • Our country is too fond of market-based solutions to matters like this. Once (at least) one company finds a way to make a lot of money off of this, the discussion will be over and we will convince ourselves that it is for the better.

      Arguably the bigger loss is in the fact that it will force even more scientists away from ethically sound research and into profit-driven work instead because there won't be any other careers.

      Ethical restraints are actually one of the biggest things holding back US research. People are afraid of regulatory and publicity risk, and science goes much slower because experiments have to go through IRB processes. The result will be that other countries with comparable resources will play catch-up and then will be able to research faster than we can.

      The ethics rules may not be as restrictive as you would like and their ethics may not track with your morality, but that doesn't mean US ethics aren't th

    • This is really just cosmetic surgery all over again. There are some practical uses for cosmetic surgery, such as helping people with deforming injuries. There are also plenty of people who will carve up an aging woman with cash to make her look young for a few more years. Any technology you create is going to have good and bad uses.

      Should we refrain from developing genetic engineering technology that might be able to cure genetic disease? Hell no. And yes, some idiots might want to spend money to give th
    • They addressed this early on the first day. The presenter said market demand will entice companies into providing what people want, the only question is how far that should be allowed to go. Repair a congenital disease? Sure. What about enhancing existing sensory systems to give someone the ability to see infrared? What if they want to have skin that glows in the dark? How about developing a pet tiger that has the behavior of a dog? They are posting video of each day here, along with the live feed and age
  • Do we want changes for the human genome to be patentable? And every time you sleep with somebody from the other sex you'll have to google whether the company which supplied your genome has a contract with the company which supplied the genome for the person you sleep with? How should we treat infringements? Should there be DRM, as in infertility for genetically engineered humans? Or only fertility if its enabled via an app on your smartphone?

    [x] enable fertile sperm production
    []

  • Instead of being frightened we should instead establish some reasonable policies and then go all-in on the human genome editing side. We're going to need it. Either our bodies are going to need to be both longer lived and much less prone to radiation, or we are never going to get our species out of this solar system (or even off this planet).

    We are not suited for space travel. Either we make ourselves suited or we wait until we randomly evolve some traits that will help us. If we wait, we may go extinct

  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @03:54PM (#51035695)
    Summit is now a widely abused term. It should be reserved for meetings of the heads of governments; to use it for anything else is ignorant and self serving, playing to PR puffery. STOP IT!
  • yep. that was his name. hope he protected it, or at least made some money.
  • by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2015 @04:02PM (#51035759)

    Nobody* wants us to descend into a Gattaca-style society (or have a bunch of Khans running around), but that doesn't have to be where this ends up. There are plenty of genetic diseases that are unquestionably, undeniably bad. No one is going to stand up and say that they're glad they have Huntington's or that they want to preserve the uniqueness of children born with Tay Sachs. Yes, the line does get fuzzier around schizophrenia and non-fatal chromosomal abnormalities, but the benefits of curing so many horrible diseases easily outweigh the inconvenience of any "hard thinking" we'd have to do about where to draw the line.

    Really, this should just be treated the same way we treat plastic surgery. There's the "never under any circumstances" (say, pec implants on a newborn), the "not covered by insurance" (boob jobs for adults) and then there's the procedures that not even the most militantly anti-plastic-surgery person would object to, such as cleft palate repair (which is even covered by insurance!). Of course there's plenty of gray area in between where people can argue about what should be legal to perform and about what insurance should cover. But just because there are moral and ethical issues doesn't mean we ban all plastic surgery.

    *Fine. I'm sure some people saw Gattaca and thought, "That's the coolest idea ever! Let's make it happen!"

    • Gattaca is a great movie, but if you think about it, it doesn't make much sense. The idea that people will be judged by their genetics is ridiculous. For one, pretty soon everyone will have near perfect genes and two most jobs do not require olympian physique so who cares? Why wouldn't you prevent your child from getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autism, or any of the number of hereditary diseases if you could?
      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        The idea that people will be judged by their genetics is ridiculous.

        Most things HR judges people on right now are ridiculous.

        For one, pretty soon everyone will have near perfect genes

        Not in a free market economy, where supply and demand meet your parents credit rating; and unplanned pregnancy is still a huge issue. Seriously, *why* on earth do you think this medical procedure will be both universally available and universally used?

        and two most jobs do not require olympian physique so who cares?

        The company insurance plan that doesn't want to insure employees that are likelier to be less healthy, need medical care, and the management that doesn't want staff that needs time off, or even that just

        • And your answer to 'what if people wanted to give every advantage to their children so they're strong, healthy, smart, and pretty' is to prevent that.

          Like being weak, sickly, stupid, or ugly is some kind of noble thing.

          We should go into germline genetic engineering eye-open, preventing a dangerous loss of genetic variation in the population, preventing the application of untested modifications... but after that, we should be doing our best to make sure everyone has access to the technology.

          Because if we don

          • by vux984 ( 928602 )

            And your answer to 'what if people wanted to give every advantage to their children so they're strong, healthy, smart, and pretty' is to prevent that.

            I never actually said that I'd prevent it. I merely pointed out that it was the logical conclusion to this technology. And that gattaca as a concept was entirely plausible.

            but after that, we should be doing our best to make sure everyone has access to the technology.

            How? You're talking about lofty ideals for designer babies when we don't even currently give everyone decent access to pre-natal and post-natal care. And care even during the delivery itself is billed to the patient at exorbitant rates if they don't have the proper insurance. You're putting the cart before the horse suggesting we should b

        • "Why wouldn't you"

          Because at some point they are no longer "your kid". Gattaca was about having the best of your genes selected for a child. Gene editing at some level is just creating the desired kid and it doesn't really matter whose DNA you start with if you can fully manipulate it.

      • by TechHSV ( 864317 )
        Why would people care what religion, race, gender, sexuality..... that a person is as long as they do good work?
      • The idea that people will be judged by their genetics is ridiculous.

        Not very familiar with humans, are you? Or are you thinking that with genetic engineering we'll find a cure for racism and sexism?

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      Besides all that, does anyone really think that, once it's technologically possible, the super-rich will NOT spend whatever it takes to have "perfect" children, whether it's legal where they currently live or not? It's not like you could prove anything once someone's pregnant.

      Of course, since it's hereditary, maybe we should just look at it as the next stage of human evolution.

    • Nobody* wants us to descend into a Gattaca-style society

      Except all the people with money?

    • I've debated a lot of pro-life people, and many of them - including the Catholic church - do oppose PGD for Huntingtons.

  • by NetNed ( 955141 )
    Eugenics, because the perfect race is a noble cause.......Oh wait........Didn't someone else try this??? Oh that's right. Margaret Sanger! Maybe someone else too...
    • Eugenics is selective breeding- this is repairing abnormality in genes. In the first case someone existence is null, in the other they are preventing abnormality in a person.

      • by NetNed ( 955141 )
        Well considering the TFA says they are there to figure out how it should be used, I have a feeling you didn't even read the blurb above. But hey, write how you think it should be used and claim it's a fact.
  • The Institute is humanity's only hope for survival.
  • I just want to find the gene for genital baldness.

    • You (perhaps) jest, but I'd love to be able to target the follicles that were affected by puberty.

      Imagine a pill that would cause those follicles and only those follicles to revert to a pre-puberty state.

      No beard to shave, no armpit hair to bother with, no genital hair to manscape or shave.

      I imagine women would be particularly pleased with not having to shave their legs or wax their lips or bikini line.

      Sure, it's a silly fashion choice in the grand scheme of things, but so what? If it were available and in

      • perhaps so, but you have to keep the beard.

        If given the choice, I would much rather focus on things that would improve the quality of life, say hereditary diseases. Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in America and quite a bit of the risk is hereditary.

  • The can of worms this could potentially open digs much further than ridding diseases and improving cognitive function. What of sexual orientation, or skin color? What of a "height" race? What of corporate encouragement of a particular set of cognitive preferences that lend well to obedient drones and not so much creative iconoclasts? What of privileged access to certain gene modifications that are disallowed to the large bulk of the population?

    If this technology were made accessible it would lead to so
  • Let the eugenics wars begin!

  • Can you say 'Eugenics Wars'? This is a very bad idea if used the the wrong way.
  • In California, modified babies would have to be labeled so that the anti-science woo sorority, and their mangina husbands, could refuse to let their "natural" kids play with them.

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