On the 20thand 21stof June 2019, CRISPRcon organised a conference on conversations on science, society and the future of gene editing at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. This event was a great platform to network, share and learn experiences on how gene editing and other technologies can solve major agricultural and health problems.
Target Malaria had the opportunity to bring on of our stakeholder to the event known as Kaahwa Betty Kabasinguzi. Betty works near the Uganda Virus Research Institute which is the partner of Target Malaria in Uganda. Delphine Thizy, the Stakeholder Engagement Manager of the project, was also present at the conference.
Betty was a panelist on the group that discussed “The promise and perils of gene editing”. She shared her personal experience about malaria and recognized the importance of stakeholder engagement while advancing technologies. She strongly supported the implementation of gene editing and explained the challenges she faces with the current malaria control tools. “We do not want this technology to take long in the laboratories, we want this technology to come soon in order to address the malaria problem because we have placed our hopes in this new technology to save millions of lives” she said.
Delphine was a panelist too on the group that discussed “Considerations for governance and leadership”. This group discussed the future of gene editing, the governance structures needed, the actions and interactions of institutions working across public and private sectors; and, how leaders think about their roles working at an international scale across countries and communities.
The conference also featured discussions by other groups and a very exciting presentation on “How genes explain our past and inform our future” by Adam Rutherford (British geneticist).The differing ideas and stories shared on whether to implement or not gene editing and other technologies by putting risks into perspective was very interesting.
Overall, CRISPRcon 2019 was a thrilling opportunity and experience for me. I will share my experience with communities here in Uganda. I will explain that such conferences exist; and that their fears and/or concerns do not defer much from researchers and other stakeholders. I will share with them that researchers and scientists are considering and undertaking safety studies to ensure gene editing technologies improve human health.