The Long Now Foundation posted a story on February 4, 2016, describing a wonderful meeting I had the honour of participating in last summer at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle, U.K.. The meeting was organized and hosted by peerless peer and gifted author (most recently of The Evolution of Everything - How Ideas Emerge), Matt Ridley. Key inspirations were champions of deextinction Stewart Brand and Ryan Phelan, along with Ben Novak, lead researcher for the Long Now Foundation's Revive & Restore Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) project. Together with an expert group of genomicists, geneticists, developmental biologists, ecologists, and others, we explored how the Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis) might be brought back from extinction. I contributed a legal and policy framework for reviving and reintroducing the Great Auk from oblivion.
The Great Auk is extinct. Long live the Great Auk!
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
The agency responsible for regulating reproductive biology in the United Kingdom ("U.K."), the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority ("HFEA"), has made the U.K. the first democracy to approve the application of CRISPR/Cas9 to human embryos. (Similar experiments took place in China in 2015, causing a firestorm of controversy.) Here is its February 1, 2016, announcement:
Our Licence Committee has approved an application from Dr Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute to renew her laboratory’s research licence to include gene editing of embryos.
The committee has added a condition to the licence that no research using gene editing may take place until the research has received research ethics approval.
As with all embryos used in research, it is illegal to transfer them to a woman for treatment.
This is a momentous step in CRISPR/Cas9 research, and one that is sure to create tremendous pressure for similar regulatory approvals among other democracies fearing they might fall behind in this revolutionary biotechnology. Le déluge vient.