The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2020 which was announced on October 7, Wednesday, has two women scientists as its recipients. That, in it, is a first in the sciences. Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist working at the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, Germany, and Jennifer A. Doudna, a biochemist from the University of California, Berkeley, U.S. shared the honour “for the development of a method for genome editing”.
The discovery of CRISPR can be traced back to 1987. This was when a group of Japanese researchers observed an unusual homologous DNA sequence bearing direct repeats with spacing in a eubacterial gene. Several important discoveries followed. In subsequent years, Francisco Mojica, Rodolphe Barrangou, Luciano Marraffini and Erik Sontheimer discovered CRISPR and showed it to be a bacterial adaptive immune system and to act on DNA targets. A notable discovery on the use of CRISPR as a gene-editing tool was by a Lithuanian biochemist, Virginijus Šikšnys, in 2012. Šikšnys showed that Cas9 could cut purified DNA in a test tube, the sam
In India, several rules, guidelines, and policies backed by the “Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, regulate genetically modified organisms. The above Act and the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving human participants, 2017, by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and the Biomedical and Health Research Regulation Bill implies regulation of the gene-editing process. This is especially so in the usage of its language “modification, deletion or removal of parts of heritable material”. However, there is no explicit mention of the term gene editing. It is time that India came up with a specific law to ban germline editing and put out guidelines for conducting gene-editing research giving rise to modified organisms.