A new paper co-written by a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign scholar who studies the legal and ethical implications of advanced biotechnologies outlines an unexplored tool to regulate the medically and ethically dubious practice of heritable human-genome editing: patent law.
Applied judiciously, patent law could create an “ethical thicket” around human genome editing that ultimately discourages access to “germline editing” – that is, changing sperm and egg to create designer children – in more permissive countries such as China, Greece, Mexico, Spain, and Ukraine, said Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law and an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois.
The World Health Organization has explored international governance tools for human genome engineering, but as long as individual countries are allowed to set and enforce their own policies, the possibility of people engaging in medical tourism to other countries to circumvent domestic prohibitions remains a risk, the authors said in a paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Read more at news.illinois.edu.
Full paper available at jamanetwork.com.