CIRM’s mission is to accelerate the delivery of stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. In pursuit of this mission CIRM consistently supports studies designed to apply the latest advances in research and medicine. For example, CIRM has supported the development some of the first therapies utilizing human embryonic stem cells. Another example where advanced methods are being employed are clinical trials for HIV/AIDS. In this example, the treatment utilizes genome-editing technology to make the patient’s immune system resistant to infection.
Genome editing has attracted considerable attention since a report of this technology being used to modify human embryos was recently published. Reports of embryo editing have prompted concerns that it may be used to permanently alter our genetic heritage, and have resulted in a broad consensus that there is a need for open discussion of the merits and risks of these technologies by a range of participants – scientists, clinicians, social scientists, the general public, and relevant public entities and interest groups.
CIRM has consistently sought to address, in a comprehensive and objective manner, the societal and ethical considerations surrounding the use of biomedical technologies. These deliberations have been specifically designed to inform the responsible uses of these technologies with CIRM funds. For example, in 2006 CIRM convened a panel of international experts to determine the current state of knowledge of the medical risks of human oocyte (egg) donation for stem cell research. These deliberations incorporated inputs from a wide range of participants and served to inform CIRM policy with regards to how experiments involving somatic cell nuclear transfer could be carried out.
Given CIRM’s support for research activities where genome editing may be employed, we believe it is important to have effective policies to guide our future funding decisions. Therefore, we have charged the CIRM Medical and Ethical Standards Working Group with convening a public workshop to elucidate the scientific and policy considerations surrounding genome editing in the context of CIRM supported research. This workshop is a first step in evaluating whether CIRM should make changes to its existing policies governing stem cell research.
The workshop will be held on Friday, February 5th, 2016 in the Los Angeles area.
Jonathan Thomas, Chair of the CIRM Board