Although somatic-gene therapy was viewed at that time as having become possible, the prospect for germ-line therapy seemed so far in the future that it was not seriously discussed. Responding to the current concerns about the potential applications of the CRISPR/Cas9 capability, scientists—including some carrying out the research—have again called for a moratorium on the most problematic application of the technology, germ-line modification, and for the convening of a new international meeting to consider a way forward.
We would support a move to hold such a conference. Those of us in the scientific community need to think carefully about the implications of our actions in both practical and ethical dimensions. Biomedical research offers hope for the alleviation of human disease, yet to address complex diseases like cancer we must carry our investigations to the most fundamental elements of living systems. This gives researchers powerful capabilities that can be used for reaching desired goals. We need to ensure that we have widespread agreement about what is desirable.