Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 351–363 | Cite as

CRISPR and the Rebirth of Synthetic Biology

  • Raheleh Heidari
  • David Martin Shaw
  • Bernice Simone Elger
Original Paper


Emergence of novel genome engineering technologies such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) has refocused attention on unresolved ethical complications of synthetic biology. Biosecurity concerns, deontological issues and human right aspects of genome editing have been the subject of in-depth debate; however, a lack of transparent regulatory guidelines, outdated governance codes, inefficient time-consuming clinical trial pathways and frequent misunderstanding of the scientific potential of cutting-edge technologies have created substantial obstacles to translational research in this area. While a precautionary principle should be applied at all stages of genome engineering research, the stigma of germline editing, synthesis of new life forms and unrealistic presentation of current technologies should not arrest the transition of new therapeutic, diagnostic or preventive tools from research to clinic. We provide a brief review on the present regulation of CRISPR and discuss the translational aspect of genome engineering research and patient autonomy with respect to the “right to try” potential novel non-germline gene therapies.


CRISPR Synthetic biology Genome engineering Gene therapy Bioethics Society 



This research project was funded by the University of Basel and the ‘Swiss National Science Foundation’ under project Grant No. PDFMP3_137194/1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raheleh Heidari
    • 1
  • David Martin Shaw
    • 1
  • Bernice Simone Elger
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Biomedical EthicsUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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