The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee (British Parliament) has published a brief report to conclude its extensive inquiry into genomes and genome editing. The report focuses on the project entitled, “100,000 genomes” and on the developments and challenges posted by genome editing, especially involving CRISPR.
In February, the Committee divided its inquiry into two sections, distinguishing human health applications from others. In the end, the second part did not come into fruition. The forthcoming elections shortened the time-scales.
The report does not make any firm recommendations. It presents “key problems”, which the new committee could investigate further.
Regarding the 100,000 Genomes project, the committee wonders why the Government created a private company (Genomics England) rather than an independent organisation, which would be a more conventional approach for monitoring the project. Why is the project behind schedule? Why does the project focus on specific cancers and rare diseases? Have the social and ethical questions relating to data safety and participants’ consent been resolved?
For genome printing, the committee has compared the situation in the United Kingdom to that prevailing in various countries, and looks at legislation on a national and international scale as the United Kingdom is on the brink of leaving the European Union. Expanding on the distinction that has now been clearly highlighted between applications for germinal cells and embryos, and those involving somatic cells, the report seeks to establish a way of reintroducing the “14-day ruling” examination – the time limit set for embryo research (see Embryo research: What is the 14-day rule based on?).