Workshop 1. Gene Editing and Gene Drives for Managing Unwanted Vertebrates – Current Status and Biosafety Considerations
Organizers: Allison Snow, Ohio State University, USA and Tim Harvey-Samuel, Pirbright Institute, United Kingdom

Gene editing and gene drives have the potential to alter or suppress populations of unwanted vertebrates such as mice, carp, and feral cats.  For example, gene editing has been proposed for blocking Lyme disease in white-footed mice, while gene drives have been proposed for eliminating invasive house mice, rats, and feral cats that threaten endangered species on islands.  However, the time frame and feasibility of developing such applications is not clear.  The goal of this workshop is to provide updates on scientific progress related to the first applications of these techniques in wild vertebrates.  Presentations by six invited speakers will be followed by a panel discussion, with time allocated for questions from the audience.  For each study species, speakers will review long-term project goals and preliminary research findings relevant to feasibility and biosafety considerations.  Research updates could cover studies to identify sterility genes; gene drives for altered phenotypes; methods for avoiding mutational breakdown of introduced traits; biological confinement strategies; population genetics and gene flow; hybridization, mating behavior, and dispersal; rearing methods for wild species; and data needed for ecological risk assessments.  Speakers will identify key research gaps and regulatory approvals that must be addressed during the development of each proposed application.  Following these talks, a panel of experts will summarize the status and prospects for gene drive applications.  Although public debate is essential for applications of genetically engineered vertebrates, ethical, social, and political issues will not be addressed here due to time constraints.  A better understanding of the first proposed applications and anticipated time frames for possible release will be useful to social scientists, regulatory agencies, funding agencies, science writers, NGOs, public stakeholders, and others.  Gene drives represent an emerging technology with many imagined applications, consistent with the Symposium theme, “New Horizons in Biotechnology: Risk Analysis for a Sustainable Future.”
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