ICEEL Ethics Statement
New biotechnologies are becoming more viable and have the potential to affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Issues emerging from their development may be considered under two main perspectives: the need i) for researchers and, more broadly, all the stakeholders involved in the translation from the lab to the real world to be aware of the ethical, legal, and political implications; and ii) to foster dialogue with the public on these implications. In this regard, it is crucial to inform citizens properly about these new technologies and their ethical implications. Equally important, all stakeholders must take into consideration citizens’ worries, doubts, and real needs to foster clarity and trust between them and the scientific community with respect to these delicate scientific developments.
The engineering of molecular and cellular systems for clinical applications capitalizes on the unique competences achieved worldwide within the past 10 years. Big leaps towards applying engineering principles to clinics and to restore body functions are provided by the development of gene-based and cell-based therapies. Successful attempts include the restoration of vision, the control of metabolic disorders, or the growth of tissues and organs for replacement. While in the long run such systems engineering approaches will help to cure pertinent diseases, methods to modify, edit, correct and/or complement the genome of patients can be also used to improve a person’s lifestyle, or be even misused in various ways. To address the ethical aspects of such attempts towards engineering life, the 1st International Conference Ethics of Engineering Life brought together stakeholders in developing and applying approaches to edit and control living systems, clinicians applying such procedures, ethicists, philosophers, communicators and artists, and other relevant representatives of our global society.
The conference was organized by the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering of the University of Basel and ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican City; and Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Italy.