This week at the Progress Educational Trust (21 August 2017)
The Progress Educational Trust (PET) is delighted to announce its next free-to-attend public event, 'What Does Consent Mean for Generation Genome?', taking place take place at the Nowgen Centre in Manchester on the evening of Monday 11 September 2017.
The event will form part of the Genomics Conversation programme of activities led by Genomics England, the organisation established by the UK Government to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project. It will be chaired by Professor William Newman (Director of the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine), who leads on the 100,000 Genomes Project in the Manchester area.
Speakers will include Professor Sue Hill (Chief Scientific Officer at NHS England), Professor Anneke Lucassen (Leader of the Clinical Ethics and Law research group at the University of Southampton) and Dr Tara Clancy (Consultant Genetic Counsellor at the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine).
Ahead of the event, Professor Hill has written an article about this topic - 'Delivering the Genomic Dream across the NHS' - for PET's flagship publication BioNews (to which you can subscribe for free). Find out more about the event here, and book your free place by emailing
Meanwhile, you can watch the following film of the previous PET/Genomics England event, 'What Next for Genomics? Providing Answers, Changing Lives, Transforming the NHS'. The event launched Generation Genome, the Annual Report of the UK's Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, who was a keynote speaker.
Booking is also open for PET's 2017 Annual Conference, which is entitled 'Crossing Frontiers: Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction' and is taking place in London on Friday 8 December 2017.
The conference agenda can be found here, and details of attendance fees and how to book can be found here. There is also a special early bird discount on the standard attendance fee if you book your place before 15 September, as detailed here.
In other news, PET Director Sarah Norcross - who will be giving the Welcome Address at the 'Crossing Frontiers' conference - has been busy in the media, criticising cuts to the public funding of fertility treatment.
Sarah was interviewed on this matter in a lead item on the BBC1 programme Look East, speaking in her capacity as Co-Chair of the campaigning organisation Fertility Fairness. Sarah has also given interviews on the topic to BBC Radio London (listen here) and BBC Hereford and Worcester (listen here).
Two of the frontiers of biomedicine which will be discussed at the 'Crossing Frontiers' conference - genome editing and in vitro gametogenesis - have been the subject of headlines around the world this month.
Genome editing has hit the headlines because of US-led research which involved editing the genomes of human embryos, in order to better understand - and perhaps, in future, treat or avoid - serious disease. In related news, different research has found that the US public is broadly supportive of the use of genome editing for treatment purposes.
Alongside its coverage of this breakthrough, The Times published an article about the risk that such pioneering research could be put to premature and unscrupulous use, in parts of the world where there is little or no regulation. PET Communications Officer Sandy Starr - quoted in the article at some length (see right) - explained that while this is always a possibility, there are appropriate ways to respond to it if it happens.
PET has led the way in public debate about genome editing in recent years, organising the first public conference on the issue - 'From Three-Person IVF to Genome Editing' - where it was discussed by the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. More recently, PET's conference 'Rethinking the Ethics of Embryo Research' saw the issue discussed by the first researcher licensed in the UK to edit the genomes of human embryos.
PET will be continuing this tradition at the 'Crossing Frontiers' conference, in light of the latest advances and debates in genome editing and related fields.
Meanwhile, in vitro gametogenesis is in the headlines due to British and Japanese research enabling male mice with an extra sex chromosome (mice which would normally be infertile) to have healthy offspring. This research could have applications restoring fertility to men with an extra sex chromosome. The paper argues that 'complete in vitro spermatogenesis will have to be developed', in order to make such techniques safe to use in humans.
PET Trustee Professor Allan Pacey - who will be answering the seemingly simple but increasingly complicated question 'What Is a Sperm?' at the 'Crossing Frontiers' conference - discusses this latest research in the Guardian newspaper. There, he explains that 'currently the use of such sperm in the UK is not lawful and it would take a change of primary legislation to allow us to use such sperm in infertility treatment'.
Another aspect of genome editing where PET has led the debate is the possibility of revising 14-day limit on human embryo research. Sandy Starr discussed the 14-day limit in a presentation to MPs in Parliament earlier this year, and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has now published a report of a workshop on the issue in which Sandy participated.
The report is entitled Human Embryo Culture, and includes contributions from experts including Professor Azim Surani (who will be speaking at the 'Crossing Frontiers' conference). It makes for useful reading alongside recent journal articles on this subject published by the Hastings Centre, by BioMed Central and by the Company of Biologists.