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WHO committee calls for sharing of gene editing tools with poorer nations By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured at the World Health Organization (WHO) building in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A World Health Organization (WHO) committee said on Monday that human genome editing technologies to treat serious disease should be shared more generously, to allow poorer nations to benefit from the highly dynamic scientific field.

“WHO should work with others to encourage relevant patent holders to help ensure equitable access to human genome editing interventions,” the 18-member committee said in a report.

Established in late 2018 after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies, the committee of gene editing experts was asked to make recommendations on national and international governance mechanisms for human genome editing.

Underlining the WHO’s existing stance, the report strongly opposed making modifications to the genetic code in humans that would be passed on to future generations, known as heritable germline genome editing.

“No-one in their right mind should contemplate doing it because the techniques are simply not safe enough or efficient enough and we’re not ready in terms of looking at all the ethical considerations,” said Robin Lovell Badge of Britain’s Francis Crick Institute, a committee member.

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