From Bio Journal - March 2019

Japan's genome editing R&D to go unchecked

The mechanism for propelling forward genome editing in Japan is being gradually put together. The final policy was indicated on 8 February 2019 for the handling of genome editing under the Cartagena laws, a process that was begun by the Ministry of the Environment in July 2018 (See BJ February 2019). While it is based on deliberations thus far by expert panels, etc. and opinions solicited from the general public, cautious views have been studiously ignored. Passing through deliberations by experts begun in September 2018, the handling under the MHLW's Food Sanitation Act was finalized in a report on 17 January 2019. Explanatory meetings were held in Tokyo on February 5 and in Osaka on February 8, opinions solicited from the general public up to February 24, and the final policy is to be indicated at the end of March. As things stand, food safety assessments of genome edited foods based on the Food Sanitation Act are likely to be deregulated even further than environmental impact assessments based on the Cartagena laws.

In parallel with these movements, MHLW and MEXT, from the bioethics aspect, have forced the rudder over toward the adoption of genome editing technology for fertilized ova. On 28 September 2018, MHLW and MEXT held a joint knowledgeable persons' council, which finalized a draft guideline. This approved the use of genome editing technology with human fertilized ova limited to fundamental research. Thus, genetic manipulation of human fertilized ova, which had never before been permitted, was approved. The new guidelines were prepared one after the other by MEXT on 4 December and by MHLW on 13 December to take effect from April 2019.

These decisions mark the full revelation of the method of dealing with unrestricted genome editing technology, and it is expected that R&D movements will accelerate from the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Genome editing innovation center established at Hiroshima University

On 1 February 2019, Hiroshima University established a genome editing innovation center within the Hiroshima University Innovation Plaza. Inaugurated as director of the center was Takashi Yamamoto, Professor of the Graduate School of Science at Hiroshima University and representative of the Japanese Society for Genome Editing. (Nikkei Biotech 2019/1/31)

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(English Index)