Editorial Aspirations: Human Integrity at the Frontiers of Biology

Program on Science, Technology & Society, Harvard Kennedy School
The Global Observatory for Genome Editing grew out of this event, which took place at Harvard University in 2017. It drew together a diverse group of international leaders, including scientists who made fundamental contributions to the development of CRISPR, the former chair of the German National Ethics Council, a member of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the director of bioethics at the World Health Organization, the chair of the secretariat on Biomedicine and Human Rights at the Council of Europe, and numerous others. At the meeting, a consensus emerged that dominant approaches to evaluating the meaning of human genome editing and related technologies were informed by (a) an overly narrow range of approaches to issues of human identity, integrity and dignity as they have taken shape in different national, legal, cultural, and religious traditions; and (b) inadequate engagement across social and intellectual divisions (e.g. secular/religious, expert/public), which tend to be enforced in an exclusionary rather than inclusive mode. The event led to the Nature commentary calling for the creation of the Observatory as well as a pair of consensus statements signed by nearly all of the meeting’s participants and published in Trends in Biotechnology.