Following the release of poll results from Pew Research Center regarding public opinion on gene editing in animals, Rahael Maladwala, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on how a good public perception of gene editing could remove barriers that have held back research in the past:
“A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows the public attitude towards gene editing in animals in general is positive – if the results can be used to help better human healthcare. This shows that the public is increasingly more open to accepting new technology into treatment algorithms and medical research.
“The subject of gene editing usually conjures up debates on the ethics of altering phenotypes and designer babies, and it is this opposition which has held back research in the past. However, the poll from Pew Research Center has demonstrated that the American public have a positive opinion on the use of gene editing in animals, which may encourage a higher allocation of funding to this area of research in the future.”
Over 2,500 participants were surveyed and the results showed that the majority of those surveyed approve of gene editing being used in research related to engineering animals to be human organ donors (57% approve), and genetically engineering mosquitoes to be less fertile, to stop the spread of disease such as malaria (70% approve). On the other hand, gene editing in animals used for things such as de-extinction had a far lower approval rate, with only 33% of the public having a positive opinion of this.
“These results clearly show that the public has a positive view of gene editing technology such as CRISPR, as long as they feel the resources are being used to benefit the human race – and not creating a Jurassic park type scenario.
“Moving into the future, the acceptance of gene editing in animals to ultimately be used in human healthcare is likely to be seen as the first step into mainstream healthcare for the CRISPR technology. Obviously, this will bring about its own set of challenges but with positive public opinion behind the technology, scientists are likely to have one less hurdle to tackle when securing funding for research.”