Alexander Christian (University of Düsseldorf): Philosophical Challenges of Heritable Human Genome Editing via CRISPR/Cas9

Date / Time:
16.04.19   /  18:30 - 20:00

Institut für Theoretische Philosophie

24.53.01 Raum 81



In November 2018 a hitherto unknown biophysicist named Jiankui He announced the first heritable human genome editing via CRISPR/Cas9, resulting in the birth of two babies named Lulu and Nana. Due to the deactivation of their CCR5 gene these children are supposed to have a reduced risk of HIV infections. This research was universally condemned both by the biomedical as well as the bioethical community. In this paper I first provide a brief explanation of genome editing via CRISPR/Cas9 and a reconstruction of the events surrounding He´s research. Then I conduct a moral analysis of this case detailing problems concerning (i) good scientific practice (lack of informational transparency, active avoidance of regulatory authorities etc.), (ii) good medical practice (lack of informed consent, failed risk assessment concerning off target editing, genetic mosaicism, health risks due to deactivated CCR5 etc.), and (iii) social responsibility. The paper concludes with a series of recommendations for policy makers.


Alexander Christian studied philosophy, sociology and biology at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf (Dr. phil. 2018) and is currently the assistant director of the Düsseldorf Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science (DCLPS). His research interests include scientific misconduct, questionable research practices, and bias in biomedical research as well as social responsibility in the context of human genome editing. He has published about the suppression of medical evidence, the demarcation problem, and values in science.


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