Taking stock of the implications of genomic advances

In November 2018, Chinese biophysics researcher He Jiankui shocked the world with the announcement that he had created the world’s first gene-edited infants. A storm of condemnation followed. “The fact that you can now edit genes more precisely than ever before raises some classical issues that have been coming up since the in vitro birth of Louise Brown, the first ‘test tube baby,’ in 1978,” says Bartha Knoppers, PhD, LLB’78, BCL’81, director of the Centre of Genomics and Policy, based in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine. In response, she and CGP colleague Erika Kleiderman, BSc’10, outlined these “classical issues” in the January 2019 Canadian Medical Association Journal; “Bad cases make for bad laws, and Dr. He’s is a bad case, so we shouldn’t be rushing to create policies based on his example,” says Knoppers.