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This week at the Progress Educational Trust (16 January 2019)


Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, the new Chair of Trustees at the Progress Educational Trust The Progress Educational Trust (PET) is delighted to begin 2019 by announcing that its new Chair of Trustees is the eminent developmental biologist Professor Robin Lovell-Badge.

Robin is Group Leader in Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, and has worked with PET on numerous events and initiatives in recent years. He is at the forefront of scientific, policy and ethical debate about many issues of key concern to PET including genome editing, mitochondrial donation, in vitro gametogenesis (IVG), synthetic human entities with embryo-like features (SHEEFs) and the 14-day limit on human embryo research (a limit that was originally proposed by PET's Patron Baroness Mary Warnock).

Robin says: 'I am honoured to have been appointed the new chair of PET, one of my favourite organisations. I am always amazed at how much PET does in an often challenging field, and I hope that I can help the charity make an even bigger impact. There are several important topics - ranging from the 14-day rule, to in vitro derived gametes, to human germline genome editing, as well as important issues for patients seeking help to have healthy children - that need attention from regulators, informed by good public dialogue. PET will clearly have a busy time over the next few years, and I am very much looking forward to playing my part in this.'

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Chair of Trustees at the Progress Educational Trust, addresses the world press at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing Most recently, Robin was one of the organisers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, where Chinese scientist He Jiankui caused a furore by claiming to have created the world's first genome-edited babies. Robin chaired the session in which He outlined and defended this claim, and Robin was also coauthor of a widely reported statement in which He's work was censured by the Summit organisers.

Robin remains in occasional contact with He, and continues to field questions from the world's press about the controversy (he can be seen pictured left at the centre of a massive throng of journalists at the Summit). On BBC Radio 4's Today programme last week, Robin said the following to John Humphrys.

Listen to John Humphrys interview Professor Robin Lovell-Badge (Chair of Trustees at the Progress Educational Trust) on BBC Radio 4's Today programme - the interview begins at the 1:43:20 mark 'We can imagine many situations where the ability to alter genes in a developing embryo - such that the child is born without a serious genetic disease, and they will no longer pass that risk to their own children - is a really valuable thing to work towards. One of the many problems in this case is that He Jiankui chose a gene, and a situation, for which there was no unmet clinical need. So first of all, there was no need to do what he did, to prevent the child from getting HIV. The way he went about doing it was technically flawed, so he didn't achieve what he had set out to do. So there's a whole long list of things that he got wrong. He didn't consult with regulators or ethicists properly. It was a mess.'

You can listen to the whole five-minute interview online here (the item begins at the 1:43:20 mark), and you can also listen to two other interviews with Robin - this interview conducted during the Summit by the BBC World Service's Science in Action programme, and this more recent interview conducted for the Financial Times podcast. Recent days have also seen Robin quoted by the print edition of the Financial Times and by CNN, Reuters, Science Business, the Independent and New Scientist magazine, among many other publications.

Fiona Fox, the former Chair of Trustees at the Progress Educational Trust (PET) Listen to Professor Richard Dawkins interview Fiona Fox (former Chair of Trustees at the Progress Educational Trust) on the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Trust Me I'm a Scientist' - the interview begins at the 32:45 mark Robin's predecessor as Chair of Trustees, Fiona Fox, will continue to work with PET as a member of the charity's Advisory Committee and also in her capacity as Chief Executive of the Science Media Centre. Fiona has recently been made an Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the British Pharmacological Society, and here you can hear her interviewed by Professor Richard Dawkins in the recent Radio 4 programme Trust Me I'm a Scientist (her contribution begins at the 32:45 mark), discussing topics including genome editing and mitochondrial donation.


Professor Colin Duncan, Chair of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility and speaker at the Progress Educational Trust's FREE-to-attend event '40 Years of IVF: Past, Present and Future', taking place in Edinburgh on the evening of Thursday 24 January 2019 Evelyn Telfer, Professor of Reproductive Biology at the University of Edinburgh and speaker at the Progress Educational Trust's symposium 'Revolutionising Reproduction: The Future of Fertility Treatment', taking place at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on the evening of Tuesday 19 March 2019 Besides welcoming its new Chair, PET has also been busy exhibiting at Fertility 2019 - the annual joint conference of the British Fertility Society (BFS), the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) and the Society for Reproduction and Fertility (SRF) - which was held in Birmingham. Many of the experts who spoke at Fertility 2019 will also be speaking at PET's public events in coming weeks and months.

On that theme, PET took a particular interest in the conference's Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture, which was entitled 'IVG: Next Generation IVF?' and concerned the latest developments in in vitro gametogenesis. The lecture was given by Professor Evelyn Telfer, a pioneer in attempts to create human eggs in the laboratory, who will next be discussing her work at a PET symposium on the afternoon of Tuesday 19 March.

Evelyn's lecture was chaired by Professor Colin Duncan - Chair of the SRF - who will be speaking at a PET event about the past, present and future of IVF taking place next week, on the evening of Thursday 24 January.


Grace MacDonald, the second woman ever to give birth to a child following IVF and speaker at the Progress Educational Trust's FREE-to-attend event '40 Years of IVF: Past, Present and Future', taking place in Edinburgh on the evening of Thursday 24 January 2019 Alastair MacDonald, the second person ever born who was conceived via IVF and speaker at the Progress Educational Trust's FREE-to-attend event '40 Years of IVF: Past, Present and Future', taking place in Edinburgh on the evening of Thursday 24 January 2019 PET's many upcoming events are listed in chronological order below. They make up a packed programme running from January through to May, and taking place in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Please email sstarr@progress.org.uk to book places or make enquiries.


Meanwhile, PET has been going through audience feedback from its recent Annual Conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?'. This conference saw a stellar lineup of speakers - together with a packed audience of more than 200 people from the worlds of science, medicine, policy, law, ethics, patient advocacy and the wider public - debate law and regulation governing fertility treatment and embryo research.

Read Sally Cheshire's Keynote Presentation from the Progress Educational Trust conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?' Read Sir James Munby's Keynote Presentation from the Progress Educational Trust conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?' PET has published the following two Keynote Presentations from the conference in its flagship publication BioNews.

Sarah Norcross (Director of the Progress Educational Trust) is quoted on the Science Museum website Dr Kathy Niakan (speaker at the Progress Educational Trust conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?') is quoted on the Science Museum website PET has also been publishing synopses of other conference sessions in BioNews.

Subscribe to BioNews for free here to be kept updated with further conference-related articles, as well as synopses of PET's upcoming events.

Elsewhere, the conference is discussed in this article on the Science Museum's website, which focuses on those parts of the conference that addressed genome editing and the He Jiankui controversy. Speakers quoted include Dr Kathy Niakan (the first researcher licensed by the UK regulator to edit the genomes of human embryos) and Sarah Norcross (Director of PET). Furthermore, PET has published two BioNews comment pieces by conference discussing the controversy.

Read Natalie Smith (speaker at the Progress Educational Trust conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?') on surrogacy in New Scientist magazine Read Natalie Gamble (speaker at the Progress Educational Trust conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?') on surrogacy in the Guardian newspaper Besides genome editing, another topic addressed by the conference which attracted widespread press coverage was surrogacy. Ahead of giving his Keynote Presentation, Sir James Munby was interviewed in the Mail on Sunday, and this in turn generated news coverage in the Telegraph and in the Metro, with his remarks on surrogacy drawing particular attention.

Dr Kylie Baldwin (speaker at the Progress Educational Trust conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?') is quoted in the Daily Mail This led to two other conference speakers - Natalie Smith and Natalie Gamble - appearing on the Today programme to debate whether and how surrogates should be paid. They then published articles giving their contrasting views on this question, with Natalie Smith writing for New Scientist magazine and Natalie Gamble writing for the Guardian newspaper.

The debate also generated other commentary, including this article in The Times, and the subject will be explored further at PET's 'How Can We Make Surrogacy Law Deliver?' event on the evening of Wednesday 3 April. Finally, a presentation on egg freezing at PET's conference - given by the medical sociologist Dr Kylie Baldwin - is the subject of this article in the Daily Mail.