Gene-Edited Animals Face U.S. Regulatory Crackdown

Researchers transforming animals with the latest genome-engineering tools may be disappointed by draft rules released by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on January 18— two days before US President Barack Obama leaves office. It is not clear how the administration of incoming president Donald Trump will carry the proposals forward, however.

The most controversial of three proposed regulations declares that all animals whose genomes have been intentionally altered will be examined for safety and efficacy in a process similar to that for new drugs.

Many researchers had hoped that the FDA would be less stringent about evaluating organisms whose genomes have been edited with precise tools — such as CRISPR and a separate technique called TALENs — than it is for animals that have been given DNA from different species or created using less-sophisticated means. Alison van Eenennaam, an animal geneticist at the University of California, Davis, calls the draft FDA proposals “insane”.

“The trigger for their regulation is whether the animal was intended to be made, and what does intention have to do with risk?” she says. “The risk has to do with the attributes of the product.”

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