“Genome editing” describes a set of techniques in molecular biology that allow scientists to modify the genetic material of human, animal, plant, bacterial and other cells. Genome editing can be applied for medical, agricultural, environmental, industrial, and potentially, military and other applications.
Genome editing can be thought of as the ‘next generation’ of genetic modification. It raises many concerns associated with earlier tools for genetically modifying humans, plants and animals such as ownership of genetic material, the legitimacy of genetically modified crops and the welfare of genetically modified animals, the morality of genetic research on human embryos, the potential to create ‘enhanced’ humans who are faster, stronger and live longer, and ‘dual use’ bioterrorism concerns.
Genome editing also raises new issues. New tools for genome editing, especially CRISPR-cas9, are faster, cheaper and more accurate than the previous generation of genetic modification tools. While much of the very early work on genetic modification was carried out in the United States of America, genome editing research is happening in thousands of laboratories all over the world, in universities, hospitals, companies and government facilities. Increasingly ‘do-it-yourself’ science enthusiasts are also moving experiments out of the laboratory and into the public sphere.
While scientific research often involves contributions from scientists in many different countries, the regulation of science and its products largely happens at the regional or national level. This can make it very challenging for scholars, experts, policy makers and advisors to keep up to date with the ever-changing global landscape of genome editing research.
i-GEN exists as an international network of researchers and experts with a broad range of interests, whose work, collectively addresses the many different dimensions of genome editing and its application in different areas of human activity from medicine to agriculture.
The core aims of i-GEN are to support the exchange of ideas, case studies, and perspectives between members of the network; to support dialogue between members and different stakeholders (e.g. policy-makers, journalists) at national and international level; and to provide a publicly available resource with information from diverse sources that can be used and shared by society.