Unanimous international consensus recommends specific measures for responsible conduct of gene drive research

July 30, 2015
This stylistic diagram shows a gene in relation to the double helix structure of DNA and to a chromosome (right). The chromosome is X-shaped because it is dividing. Introns are regions often found in eukaryote genes that are removed in the splicing process (after the DNA is transcribed into RNA): Only the exons encode the protein. The diagram labels a region of only 55 or so bases as a gene. In reality, most genes are hundreds of times longer. Credit: Thomas Splettstoesser/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Gene drives are genetic elements - found naturally in the genomes of most of the world's organisms - that increase the chance of the gene they carry being passed on to all offspring, and thus, they can quickly spread through populations. Looking to these natural systems, researchers around the world, including some Wyss Institute scientists, are developing synthetic gene drives that could one day be leveraged by humans to purposefully alter the traits of wild populations of organisms to prevent disease transmission and eradicate invasive species.

These synthetic gene drives, designed using an RNA-guided gene editing system called CRISPR, could one day improve human health and the environment by preventing mosquitoes and ticks from spreading diseases such as malaria and Lyme; by promoting sustainable agriculture through control of crop pests without the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides; and by protecting at-risk ecosystems from the spread of destructive, such as rats or cane toads.

However, the development of RNA-guided gene drive technology calls for enhanced safety measures due to its nearly unique capability to affect shared ecosystems should organisms containing synthetic gene drives be accidentally or deliberately released from a laboratory. This potential risk is especially relevant to gene drive research in highly mobile species such as fruit flies or mosquitoes.

"One of the great successes of engineering is the development of safety features, such as the rounding of sharp corners on objects and the invention of airbags for cars, and in biological engineering we want to emulate the process of designing safety features in ways relevant to the technologies we develop," said Wyss Core Faculty member George Church, Ph.D., who leads the Synthetic Biology Platform at the Wyss Institute and is also the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT.

At the Wyss Institute, enhanced protocols for safely and securely researching emerging biotechnologies, including RNA-guided gene drives, have already been formally implemented. The safeguards were put in place proactively, step-by-step, in direct parallel with the development of the first RNA-guided gene drives at the Wyss Institute. The working documents have been made publicly available by the Institute to encourage widespread adoption of multi-tier confinement and risk assessment procedures. Church was instrumental in the design of the enhanced biosafety and biosecurity protocols.

Now, research teams from the Wyss Institute and University of California, San Diego - the only two groups to have published work on RNA-guided CRISPR gene drives - have proactively assembled an international group of 26 experts, including prominent genetic engineers and fruit fly geneticists, to unanimously recommend a series of pre-emptive measures to safeguard gene drive research.

Led by Wyss Institute Technology Development Fellow, Kevin Esvelt, Ph.D., and UC San Diego Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Ethan Bier, Ph.D, the 26 authors of this consensus recommendation, which is published online in Science Express journal and includes representatives from every major group known to be working on gene drives, calls for all researchers to use multiple confinement strategies in order to prevent the accidental alteration of wild populations. The group also provides explicit recommended guidelines for regulatory authorities evaluating proposed new work. Furthermore, the group hopes the consensus will launch broadly inclusive discussions concerning the need for transparency and public involvement in this nascent scientific field.

"Just as we demand informed consent in healthcare, people have the right to know about the development of gene drives or other technologies that could directly impact their lives," said Esvelt.

Motivated by concerns over intellectual primacy and property, scientists rarely disclose new research until it is published in peer-reviewed journals. Esvelt and others are hopeful that the field of gene drive research is so nascent that it may be possible to build a community of scientists that share their research with the public throughout the development process.

"This would promote collaboration and avoid needless duplication of efforts among different research groups while allowing diverse voices to help guide the development of a technology that could improve our shared world," said Esvelt. "And eventually, it might inspire a similar shift towards full transparency in other scientific fields of collective public importance."

"The scientific community has a responsibility to the public and to the environment to constantly assess how new biotechnologies could potentially impact our world," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. "This proactive consensus recommendation - reached in an extraordinary demonstration of the power of scientific collaboration over competition - provides concrete, useful guidelines for safeguarding our shared ecosystem while ensuring that remarkable breakthroughs, such as drives, can be applied to their full potential for the greater good."

Explore further: Springing into action: The Wyss Institute introduces its new biosafety process

More information: "Safeguarding gene drive experiments in the laboratory," www.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/science.aac7932

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JVK
1 / 5 (3) Jul 30, 2015
Re:
Gene drives are genetic elements - found naturally in the genomes of most of the world's organisms - that increase the chance of the gene they carry being passed on to all offspring, and thus, they can quickly spread through populations.


Can the gene drives be compared in the context of what naturally occurs via RNA-mediated gene duplication and RNA-mediated fixation of nutrient-dependent amino acid substitutions that biophysically constrain the chemistry of protein folding during thermodynamic cycles of protein biosynthesis and degradation that protect all living genera from the genomic entropy caused by viruses?

If not, I think that rounding sharp corners and other current biocontainment efforts could fail to contain a virus that might lead to the death of us all.
nilbud
5 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2015
Genomic entropy LOL.
JVK
1 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2015
Scientific Seeker Stuart Kauffman on Free Will, God, ESP and Other Mysteries http://blogs.scie...steries/

Are you laughing at the claims of Stuart Kauffman?

Excerpt: "He is a polymath, with a degree in medicine and training in biochemistry, genetics, physics, philosophy and other fields."

Excerpt: "He proposed that our scientific understanding of reality is radically incomplete, and that some sort of anti-entropy, order-generating force remains to be discovered."

What kind of biologically uninformed science idiot laughs at the claims of serious scientists from behind a veil of anonymity that is common to dimwitted participants everywhere who comment on things they know nothing about?
JVK
1 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2015
See also: The Architecture of a Scrambled Genome Reveals Massive Levels of Genomic Rearrangement during Development http://www.scienc...14009842

The fact that genomes are reconfigured throughout life history transitions in all genera makes it clear who the biologically uninformed science idiots are who comment on my posts.

See also the review of my most recently published work: Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model. http://www.ncbi.n...24693353

Criticisms of the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled evolutionary model. http://www.ncbi.n...24959329

Perhaps Andrew Jones, aka anonymous_9001 has something more to say.
anonymous_9001
5 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2015
The fact that genomes are reconfigured throughout life history transitions in all genera makes it clear who the biologically uninformed science idiots are who comment on my posts.


Rearrangements are not at odds with any aspect of the modern synthesis. The resulting genome is still subject to mutation and phenotypes are still subject to selection.

Better yet, why don't you contact Chen et al. and figure out the true implication of their paper in the context of neo-Darwinism/modern synthesis?
JVK
1 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2015
Andrew Jones (aka anonymous_9001) cited PZ Myers' attack on my accurate representations of biologically-based cause and effect in his criticisms of my 2013 review.
See: http://www.ncbi.n...4049134/

The attack began after I claimed: "Ecological adaptation occurs via the epigenetic effects of nutrients on alternative splicings of pre-mRNA which result in amino acid substitutions that differentiate all cell types of all individuals of all species. The control of the differences in cell types occurs via the metabolism of the nutrients to chemical signals that control the physiology of reproduction."

See: http://freethough...s-place/

I was banned from further participation on the same day I provided a link that established how chromosomal rearrangements were linked to biodiversity in white-throated sparrows without the pseudoscientific nonsense about mutations and evolution.
JVK
1 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2015
...why don't you contact Chen et al. and figure out the true implication of their paper in the context of neo-Darwinism/modern synthesis?


It doesn't matter what the implications are of works placed into the context of the neo-Darwinian" Modern Synthesis." unless they have included information about the role of virus-perturbed protein folding.

Eugene Koonin just made that fact perfectly clear.
http://www.huffin...216.html

Conclusion: "...the new understanding of evolution needs to integrate what we now know about viruses and virus-host interactions which, from my own perspective, has been absolutely one of the key factors of all evolution since the emergence of cells -- well, actually even before the emergence of cells."

Virus-host interactions link ecological variation to ecological adaptations via RNA-mediated events and chromosomal rearrangements in all living genera.
Vietvet
3 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2015


I was banned from further participation on the same day I provided a link that established how chromosomal rearrangements were linked to biodiversity in white-throated sparrows without the pseudoscientific nonsense about mutations and evolution.


You were only banned for homophobic insults. P.Z. Meyers allows all kinds of controversial comments on his blog, including yours until your nasty attack on another commentator based on his sexual orientation.
docile
Aug 02, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JVK
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2015
I repeat: Virus-host interactions link ecological variation to ecological adaptations via RNA-mediated events and chromosomal rearrangements in all living genera.

Neo-Darwinian theorists refuse to accept the fact that they have been touting pseudoscientific nonsense ever since the "Modern Synthesis" was invented.

docile
Aug 03, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Vietvet
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2015
I repeat: Virus-host interactions link ecological variation to ecological adaptations via RNA-mediated events and chromosomal rearrangements in all living genera.

@JVK

You've repeatedly lied about why you were banned from P.Z. Meyers blog.

You've repeatedly linked to young earth creationists' blogs.

You've repeatedly lied/misconstrued/didn't understand the research of respected scientists.

You've repeatedly taken quotes out of context.

You've repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims.

Your credibility is ZERO.
anonymous_9001
5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2015
I contacted Koonin. Big surprise: he doesn't reject neo-Darwinism/modern synthesis. Again, just like Noble and the others, he's advocating for adding things to it, not replacing it.

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