Watching David Baltimore open the #GeneEdit Summit last week brought back a memory of the last time I saw the Nobel laureate in such a role. The 2015 #GeneEditSummit concluded with a Q&A about the summit’s statement — which many considered was a moratorium on gene editing of embryos.
An audience member, with a sense of the promise of the science but concern for buy-in from a distrustful public, asked whether the statement might be translated into clearer language for those hard-pressed to understand CRISPR even with the acronym spelled out for them. To which Baltimore replied: “You mean it isn’t?”
That exchange convinced me that even gene editors need an editor. Especially gene editors. Indeed, if He Jiankui read that 2015 moratorium before he altered his own future in unintended ways, he did not see it as a red light.
In a tweet, director Francis Collins (@NIHdirector) clarified that the National Institutes of Health considers the light red: “The work of Dr. He Jiankui presented at #GeneEditSummit is profoundly disturbing & tramples on ethical norms. We need to develop binding international consensus on limits for this research. #NIH does not support the use of gene-editing in human embryos.”