The decoding of the human genetic code will lead to new predictive tests for common diseases by 2010, drug prescriptions tailored to a person's genetic make-up by 2020 and an average lifespan of 90 years by 2030. These were the predictions made by Dr Francis Collins, director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, at the World Life Sciences Forum held in Lyons last week.
Dr Collins said that by 2020 it could be possible to carry out germline gene therapy (altering genes in the egg, sperm or embryo) safely in humans. But he described the prospect of humans taking charge of their own evolution as 'chilling', saying it was 'an enterprise I would hope we will not undertake for a long time, if ever'.
French president Jacques Chirac opened the conference with a speech that included an indirect criticism of the UK parliament's recent decision to allow research on cloned early embryo stem cells. Chirac said he opposed 'therapeutic cloning' because it required the creation of embryos for research purposes, and could lead to trafficking in human eggs. Under current French law, scientists can only carry out research on 'spare' GLINK(#:2350, IVF)} embryos stored for over five years.