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Gene Editing

New WHO Science Council takes on genomic technologies

by Paula Dupraz-Dobias, special to C&EN
May 2, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 16

A scientific advisory body set up by the World Health Organization met for the first time April 27 and began discussing how genomic technologies could be better used in global health. The WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, established the Science Council to advise on high-priority scientific issues that could affect global health. The group is chaired by Harold Varmus, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and includes nine members from around the world who represent different areas of science. In a live public discussion broadcast on social media after the meeting, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan emphasized the importance of methods for analyzing and manipulating genomes for health. Genomic technology “has a breadth of influence across diagnosis, prevention, and treatment and across many disease areas,” she said. Varmus said it is important that knowledge and technologies be shared equitably between developed and developing countries. To that end, the council is beginning a project “that addresses the better use and access to the techniques of modern genomics” to manage a wide range of hereditary, infectious, and chronic diseases, Varmus added. The council also includes Mary-Claire King, a professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington, and Yongyuth Yuthavong, a senior specialist at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Thailand. The WHO says it expects the council to meet again in June or July.


This story was updated on May 3, 2021, to correct the byline. The story was written by Paula Dupraz-Dobias, not Britt E. Erickson.



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