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Capacity-building for gene drive research

The Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research has developed a new policy brief: “Capacity-building for Gene Drive Research”. The publication highlights the value of capacity-building for gene drive research and makes policy recommendations to help address inequities in the field of synthetic biology.

Gene drive technology offers a promising avenue to address challenges in global health and conservation, in particular vector-borne diseases and invasive species. However, to ensure countries can responsibly research, develop and benefit from gene drive approaches, they must have the necessary infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and skillsets. In other words, investing in capacity-building initiatives is critical.

Capacity-building should enhance the knowledge, skills, infrastructure, and resources necessary to conduct genetic research, including on gene drive technologies, responsibly and effectively. By empowering scientists, policymakers, regulators, and stakeholders to understand, evaluate, and leverage genetic approaches, capacity-building efforts foster the development of a robust and inclusive research community that could harness the full potential of genetic technologies. Capacity-building efforts must be comprehensive, collaborative, and contextually relevant to address the multidisciplinary nature of gene drive technology and its complex ethical, social, and regulatory considerations. Assessing and addressing both internal and external capacity-building needs will help ensure that countries are capable of advancing gene drive research.

When it comes to policy recommendations, the brief emphasizes the need for:

  • Governments to create an enabling environment and commit resources to build regulatory and research capacity.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to fulfill its mandate by ensuring the Cartagena Protocol capacity-building plan is implemented. This will ensure Parties, particularly developing countries, strengthen their biosafety-related human resources and institutional capacities.
  • Collaborations and partnerships which are vital to maximize gene drive’s benefits for society and the environment.

Lessons can be learnt from existing initiatives that are supporting capacity-building for gene drive research. These initiatives should be expanded to ensure sufficient regulatory capacity, place the right scientists in the right disciplines, support decision-makers, and establish the ‘hard’ infrastructure needed, such as laboratories, to advance research. 

Capacity-building goes beyond acquiring technical skills or infrastructure. It is also about fostering a culture of responsible innovation, ethical stewardship, and equitable participation in research. By prioritizing and investing in capacity-building, policymakers can create an enabling environment for research, development, and potential application of gene drive technologies as well as other innovative tools.

To learn more, read the full policy brief here.

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