Genetic engineering could be legal in UK, EU
Genetic engineering, a field that has been a focus of public interest in recent years, could be legally conducted in the UK and the EU under new laws to be passed by the UK’s new government, according to scientists and campaigners.
In a joint statement, geneticists at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Physicians called for a “clean-up of existing regulatory regimes”, arguing that the laws could be “very helpful to UK-based researchers and clinicians”.
“We have been working on this for a long time,” said Dr Peter Haskins, director of the Imperial College Genetics Institute.
“The UK government has been moving towards a regulatory approach in recent months.
We think it’s a very good step forward.”‘
Clear guidance’UK regulators have made clear that genetic engineering must comply with strict regulatory requirements.
The government has introduced a raft of new rules that have already seen the publication of more than 10,000 scientific papers on the topic, including the first major UK-wide review of the issue.
But critics have pointed out that some of the legislation does not go far enough.
Professor Richard Davies, an expert in regulatory policy at University College London, said the proposed changes to the regulation were “clear guidance” for scientists who want to use genetic engineering to produce a new medicine.
“There are a whole host of things which we would like to see the UK government do more of,” he said.
“But it seems to me the government should be focusing on the regulation of GMOs and the regulatory framework, rather than trying to legislate.”
“We think there is a real need for a much more robust regulatory approach to this,” he added.UK regulators are already planning for the possible use of genetic engineering for treatments, and have launched an online tool to help them identify potential problems.
In the UK, a company can apply to have its genetic engineering work funded under the Food and Veterinary Research Council’s (FVRC) ‘seed’ scheme.
Under this scheme, the government grants a company the right to commercialise genetic engineering research.
In 2016, the UK launched its ‘seed’ programme to fund the development of new medicines using genes from animals and plants.
It is not clear if the new government would follow the UK seed scheme.
But Dr Haskers said he was confident that the government would take a “clear and comprehensive approach to genetic engineering”.
He said: “We are optimistic that this will be a significant change for the UK.”