Gene editing in research
Gene editing technologies give scientists new insights into how genes underpin health and disease. This is already having a significant impact on research.
On this page
How gene editing works
Gene editing allows scientists to change gene sequences by adding, replacing or removing sections of DNA.
Our short animation explains what gene editing is, how it works and its possible ethical and societal implications.
We believe that innovations which have the potential to improve health deserve detailed investigation.
We support the use of gene editing in a research context when the studies are legal, and ethically and scientifically justified.
We recognise that gene editing has the potential to prevent or treat serious genetic diseases in future. This could be by editing sperm or eggs (known as germ cells), or any other, non-reproductive cells in the body (known as somatic cells). Editing germ cells beyond 14 days and using them to establish a pregnancy is currently not permitted in UK law.
There are important scientific, social and ethical questions about gene editing. These need to be explored in an open, inclusive way as research proceeds.
What we’re doing
We strongly support and facilitate open and inclusive discussions around gene editing and its implications.
We're funding a number of initiatives in this space and are actively participating in discussions in the UK, Europe and globally.
Progress in genome editing has made it easier to explore gene drive technologies. These could be used to control insects that carry disease, like mosquitoes that transmit malaria or Zika virus.
As with any new technology, it is important that progress is made safely and ethically. Wellcome has joined other global funders in committing to a set of guiding principles for the responsible funding of gene drive research.
- Read the statement published in Science
- Learn how other sponsors and research organisations can sign up
- The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has launched a project on gene editing. It will consider the impact of gene editing in research, and aims to develop practical ethical guidance for specific fields of application.
- The Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust funded a meeting of the Hinxton Group on Technological Convergence: Gene Editing, Stem Cell Research and Human Germline Modification in September 2015. Read the statement following this meeting.
- The US National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine have announced an initiative on human gene editing which we are sponsoring.
If you have any questions, contact Sam Alvis
Understanding how genes, proteins and other molecules work together to perform the functions of life and what happens when these functions go wrong.
Science policy affects a broad range of issues, ranging from data sharing and gene editing, to intellectual property and regulation.
Regulation creates an environment where research and innovation can flourish.