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NIH supports gene drive research for public health purposes

The Novel and Exceptional Technology and Research Advisory Committee (NExTRAC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will hold a virtual meeting on June 25 to present and deliberate on their report about gene drive application for disease control. The report aims to assess whether existing biosafety guidance is adequate for contained laboratory research utilizing gene drive technology and to outline conditions, if any, under which NIH could consider supporting field release of gene drive modified organisms.

The draft report indicates that “NIH supports basic gene drive research for its potential to benefit public health, such as by altering the mosquito genome to reduce transmission of vector-borne human diseases, like malaria, dengue, or Zika.”

As gene drive research continues to advance, the NIH seeks to address whether to proceed with field release studies and how to do so safely and ethically. The NIH NExTRAC Working Group Draft Report suggests that the final decision on any approval to release a gene drive modified organism into the field would rest with local authorities and regulators. All the same, it also suggests that rigorous risk and benefit assessments as well as stakeholder and community engagement should be contributory factors in the decision-making process.

More details, as well as the agenda and draft report for the upcoming NExTRAC meeting can be found here.

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