Human embryo science: can the world’s regulators keep pace?
This news piece in Nature reflects on recent developments in embryo research to point to the gap between the pace of scientific research and the abilities of regulatory institutions to keep up with new developments. It draws on the He Jiankui affair and the International Summits on Human Genome Editing as other examples of this problem. The author argues that the ideal solution is an agile regulatory process that can quickly respond to new developments while also being receptive to input from experts and non-experts alike. He provides the recent attempt to “future-proof” the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) as an example, though not one without substantial challenges. The author specifically identifies engaging public opinion as one of the greatest challenges with developing nimbler regulatory mechanisms, since it is often time-consuming. He highlights the Global Observatory as an effort that questions why scientific research sets the pace and why regulation is expected to quickly respond to scientific developments.