Moneycontrol PRO
Upcoming Webinar:Join us for 'The Future Techshot' on Sept 22, 10:30am to gain insights into role of tech in streamlining businesses. Register Now!
you are here: HomeNewsWorld

WHO committee calls for gene editing tools to be shared with poorer nations

The panel of gene editing experts was established in late 2018 after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies to make then resistant to HIV infection.

July 12, 2021 / 08:55 PM IST
Representative image (Source: ShutterStock)

Representative image (Source: ShutterStock)

A World Health Organization (WHO) committee said on Monday that human genome editing technologies to treat serious disease should be shared more generously, to allow poorer nations to benefit from the highly dynamic scientific field.

"WHO should work with others to encourage relevant patent holders to help ensure equitable access to human genome editing interventions," the 18-member committee said in a report, which covered a wide range of governance structures and processes.

The panel of gene editing experts was established in late 2018 after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies to make then resistant to HIV infection.

Underlining the WHO's existing stance, the report strongly opposed making modifications to the genetic code in humans that would be passed on to future generations, known as heritable germline genome editing.

"No-one in their right mind should contemplate doing it because the techniques are simply not safe enough or efficient enough and we're not ready in terms of looking at all the ethical considerations," said Robin Lovell Badge of Britain's Francis Crick Institute, a committee member.

Close

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

View more
How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

View more
Show

But the technology, with the CRISPR/Cas9 'genetic scissors' as its most prominent tool, also holds the promise of curing diseases such as HIV or sickle-cell disease and boosting fundamental medical knowledge, and unequal access could cement global disparities, the panel warned.

"The danger in fully implementing intellectual property as we know it," would be that rich countries benefit while poor countries bear the main burden of diseases such as sickle cell anaemia, Anne Wangari Thairu-Muigai of Kenja's Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, told a press briefing.

Intellectual property in medicine became a contested issue when U.S. President Joe Biden in May proposed a temporary waiver of vaccine patents to make anti-COVID-19 shots more quickly available in low-income countries.

Pharmaceutical companies and other countries have argued such a step would be ineffective and risks discouraging work on future health technologies.

Seeking to head off irresponsible human gene modification, the panel also warned it should only be conducted where sufficient policies and oversight are in place, raising the spectre of rogue clinics attracting medical tourism to loosely regulated countries with purported therapies or clinical trials.

Specific rules, however, could be a while in the making as WHO said its Science Division would be given up to 3 years to initiate an extensive review of the recommendations, while the review itself could take as long as 18 months.
Reuters
first published: Jul 12, 2021 08:55 pm

stay updated

Get Daily News on your Browser
Sections
ISO 27001 - BSI Assurance Mark