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Gene drives: There is no one size fits all approach

The first webinar of the 2022 Gene Drive Webinar Series provided participants with an introduction to different types of gene drives and how guidance and frameworks need to be able to adapt to these differences. An initiative led by the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research and the ISAAA SE Asia Center, the panel Gene Drive Organisms: There is no one size fits all also discussed gene drive regulation and oversight, as well as the appropriateness of current guidelines, best practices, and gaps.

The session was moderated by Dr Guan-Hong Wang (Chinese Academy of Sciences). Dr. Alekos Simoni, Scientific Manager at the Polo d’Innovazione di Genomica, Genetica e Biologia (Polo GGB), part of the Target Malaria consortium, emphasised that not all gene drives are the same, breaking down the differences between homing-based gene drives, Y-drive, split drive and Maternal Effect Dominant Embryonic Arrest (MEDEA). He also highlighted the need to consider efficacy, resistance persistence and localization of gene drives when developing, implementing, and regulating these organisms.

The second panellist, Dr. Owain Edwards, Group Leader at the Environmental and Synthetic Genomics of CSIRO Land & Water, echoed Simoni’s presentation by emphasising the need to consider gene drives’ diversity when developing policies and regulatory frameworks. Though there is no specific regulatory framework to gene drive organisms, existing guidelines and frameworks can be used as the foundation for new approaches, opined Dr. Edwards. He also stressed the need to have a case-by-case regulatory assessment approach to gene drive organisms as one size does not fit all. Dr. Edwards also highlighted the importance of engaging stakeholders in the process of developing gene drives to ensure an informed debate and decision-making process.

The next webinar of the series will focus on the key considerations for risk assessments of gene drive technologies and will be held on June 16. Registration to open soon!

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