ANU seeks public views on gene-altering technology

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 — Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) want to know what the public thinks about how much science should be allowed to alter human genes to either cure disease or improve athletic abilities.

The ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science is doing an Australia-wide study of public opinions on gene-editing technology, and wants volunteers to fill in an online survey.

PhD scholar Michel Watson said far from science fiction, gene editing tools can now be used to bind to DNA and shut targeted genes off, but it was unclear how much access people should have to the new technologies.

“People don’t realise just how close we are to having these gene editing technologies readily available to the community,” Ms Watson said.

She said it was crucial for members of the public to express their views as policymakers start to grapple with how these technologies should be regulated.

“There are big ethical questions about how and when we should use the technology. Where is the ‘line in the sand’? If you want to be more intelligent, or a better athlete should you be able to access these technologies?” she said.

“Or should they only be available to people with illnesses? How sick would you need to be before you can have inherited genes modified?

“We want people to have their say on where the limits for applying this technology should be.”

To complete the survey, go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/STFS9K7 or search for The Human Gene Therapy Survey.

FOR INTERVIEW:

Michel Watson
ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
T: 0499 950 177
E: Michel.Watson@anu.edu.au

For media assistance, contact the ANU media hotline on 02 6125 7979 or email media@anu.edu.au.