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WHO headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Top global scientists declined to declare the moratorium on gene editing heritable genes in humans called for by some experts, but warned it would be "irresponsible" to allow this in clinical practice and recommended initial steps for a global regulatory framework under the World Health Organization.

Why it matters: The global scientific and ethical community continues to be divided on whether there should be a complete moratorium on editing germline, or heritable, cells for now. However there's a growing consensus that some global regulatory framework is needed to prevent a repeat of the ethically and medically questionable way a Chinese scientist edited and implanted embryos.

What's new: There's an "urgent need" to create an international registry of all human genome research, which they committee hopes could be partly enforced via publishers and research granters who would require registration before allowing studies to receive grant money or have their results published, according to committee co-chair Margaret A. Hamburg, who spoke at the press conference.

"We agree that it is irresponsible at this time for anyone to proceed with a clinical application of human germline editing," Hamburg added.

Details: The committee said the recommendations are based on the core principles of transparency, inclusivity and responsibility.

  • A central registry for both somatic (non-heritable) and germline genetic cell research is key for transparency and increasing accountability, Hamburg says.
  • WHO should act as an information resource for all countries and should involve the wider range of stakeholders to be inclusive of the various players with different cultural perspectives.
  • The committee will establish various subcommittees to develop the standards, which must be inclusive of all types of cultures and technological advances.
  • While a moratorium "will be part of those discussions" over the next 18 months, Hamburg says their mandate is to look at the broader discussion of what is the best framework for responsible stewardship.

What's next: Hamburg says there will be at least 3 more in-person meetings of the expert advisory committee, which includes scientists from the U.S., China and elsewhere, plus various subcommittee and online discussions. They expect to make final recommendations to the WHO's director general in about 18 months.

Go deeper

U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February

A construction worker at the World Trade Center construction site earlier this year. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images.

The economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% from 6.3%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The first Biden-era jobs report shows hiring surged as coronavirus cases eased — though a full recovery remains far off. Economists expected the economy to add roughly 182,000 jobs last month, after adding a paltry 49,000 in January.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
55 mins ago - Economy & Business

Workers are getting a really bad deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.

FBI: Trump appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The FBI on Thursday arrested former State Department aide Federico Klein, a Trump appointee who worked on the former president's 2016 campaign, on charges related to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, according to a court filing.

Why it matters: The 42-year-old Klein is the first member of the Trump administration to be arrested in connection with the insurrection, which led to the former president's second impeachment and charges against over 300 people.