This week at the Progress Educational Trust (3 September 2015)
The Progress Educational Trust (PET) is delighted to announce that the latest two speakers confirmed for its upcoming Annual Conference, 'From Three-Person IVF to Genome Editing: The Science and Ethics of Engineering the Embryo', are Professor Sir Mark Walport (Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government) and Professor Sir Ian Wilmut (creator of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal ever cloned from an adult cell).
The focus of the conference is genome editing, a frontier of research (and potentially, treatment) that has dominated the headlines this week. A joint statement by five of the UK's leading research organisations - two of which, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, are sponsors of PET's conference - has been reported by newspapers including the Guardian and the Independent. Meanwhile, the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 interviewed one of PET's conference speakers, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge (Group Leader in Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute), on the subject of genome editing. You can listen to the interview here, beginning at the 1:14:00 mark.
Other speakers at the 9 December conference include Sally Cheshire (Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA, which regulates all UK research and treatment involving human embryos) and Professor Doug Turnbull (Director of the Wellcome Trust's Centre for Mitochondrial Research). Professor Turnbull is a pioneer of mitochondrial donation, a method of making enduring changes to the human embryo which is very different to genome editing. Next month, it will become legal for the HFEA to license clinicians to use mitochondrial donation in treatment.
Meanwhile, the UK Government's Department of Health is currently conducting a review of the form, functions, governance and performance of the HFEA. As part of this review, the Government recently issued a call for evidence to which PET responded. PET's response, which can be read in full here, discusses how the HFEA deals with issues including mitochondrial donation and genome editing.
In other news, PET's Patron Professor Marcus Pembrey has been in the media discussing a different frontier of scientific research, namely epigenetics. Earlier this month, a study suggested that epigenetic changes linked to trauma experienced by Holocaust survivors might induce similar changes in the survivors' children. This was reported in an article on the front page of the Guardian, in which Professor Pembrey was quoted. He has since expanded on his comments in an article entitled 'An epigenetic legacy of the Holocaust?', published in BioNews - PET's flagship publication, to which you can subscribe for free here.
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