Research Notes

Article excerpt

A sampling of developments in The Hasting Center's research over the last six months.

The regulation of reprogenetics

Who regulates "reprogenetic" technology--the technology at the intersection of reproductive and genetic science that is changing the way we have children? How does one obtain approval for a trial on human subjects of new reprogenetic tools or techniques? How does one navigate the system? These are a few of the questions posed at the first project meeting of Reprogenetics: A Blueprint for Meaningful Moral Debate and Responsible Public Policy, held at the Center on 16-17 November 2000.

Participants' general answer is that the regulations applying to reprogenetic technologies are complex, vague, burdensome, and vary greatly from state to state. All in all, the current regulations are inadequate.

The meeting was launched with updates on the science and clinical applications of both genetic and reproductive technologies and reviews of the public policies and regulations surrounding genetic and reproductive technologies. A better understanding of the state of the art and the tangled regulation of reprogenetics is necessary for meaningful moral debate and responsible public policy.

The project is funded by the Greenwall Foundation.

New perspectives on agriculture biotechnology

The second meeting of Public Perceptions of Agricultural Biotechnology, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, was held at The Hastings Center on 9-11 November 2000. The previous meeting had focused on European perspectives on agricultural biotechnology. This meeting brought three new perspectives to the table. Angela Wasunna, a visiting associate at The Hastings Center from Kenya, discussed the impact of agricultural biotechnology on developing nations. Robin Yeaton Woo, from George town University Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, provided insight into the logic of policymakers "inside the beltway," and Peter Sandoe, from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark, discussed the relationship of biotechnology, animal welfare, and ethical concerns.

The goal of this project is to create a policy document can be disseminated to policymakers involved with agricultural biotechnology.

Research ethics

Human subjects research was the underlying theme at the Annual Fellows Meeting, held at The Hastings Center in October. Topics included gene transfer research, international research, priority setting in research funding, and new developments in the federal oversight of human research.

In what was perhaps the most vigorously debated session of the meeting, David Magnus (Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania), Eric Juengst (Center for Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University), and Lana Skirboll (the National Institutes of Health) addressed different aspects of the regulation and review of gene therapy trials and the clouded issues surrounding the death of Jesse Gelsinger in 1999 in a gene transfer experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. …