The debate around human genome editing has really hotted up this week. Is editing human embryos the line that shouldn’t be crossed? Welcome to the Week in Genomics!


Scientists seek permission to genetically modify embryos

UK scientists from the Francis Crick Institute in London have sought permission to use CRISPR to modify human embryos as part of an infertility study. The application has been received by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the government regulatory body for embryology research, who will make a decision in due course.

The research leader, Dr Kathy Niakan, said: “Importantly, in line with HFEA regulations, any donated embryos would be used for research purposes only.

“These embryos would be donated by informed consent and surplus to IVF treatment.”

10K genomes project launches first data

The Wellcome Trust UK10K project published a series of studies in Nature this week containing the genomes of 10,000 people, some with rare genetic conditions and some without. The aim of the project is to identify genetic variants that are associated with disease, and the data has already been used by scientists from McGill University in Canada to identify variants associated with bone density.

Genome editing embryos is “essential”

Following the news that UK research funders would continue to support human genome-editing research, the international Hinxton Group held a meeting to discuss the science and ethics of CRISPR. They concluded that while GM babies should not be born yet, there may come a time in the future when this would be morally acceptable. 

WuXiNextCODE set to advance precision medicine in China

WuXiNextCODE have signed an agreement with Fudan Children’s Hospital in China to bring their precision techniques to Chinese patients. Many genomic service providers are starting to look to China as the next logical progression for their products. Earlier this week Veritas Genetics announced the creation of a Chinese R&D centre in Hangzou that would focus on those conditions that are more prevalent in Asian populations. 

Gene editing reveals achilles heel of sickle cell anaemia

CRISPR-based gene editing has identified a possible way to circumvent the genetic defect that causes sick-cell anaemia. 

Desktop Genetics raise $2.15 million to develop bioinformatics platform

Cambridge-born startup Desktop Genomics have raised $2.15 million to develop their online bioinformatics platform DESKGEN.