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CRISPR babies: a bioethical dilemma

12/7/2018 4:46:50 PM

Unless you’ve been hiding out in the dark recesses of the lab, by now you have heard about the CRISPR babies controversy. Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing that he edited the genomes of human embryos to confer HIV resistance and that a pair of those embryos resulted in pregnancy and twin live births.  

Editing in germline cells produces heritable changes, raising all kinds of bioethical concerns, including those relating to unintended side effects and to the creep toward creating designer babies. For a rundown of the many ethical and scientific concerns specific to the Jiankui case, see this article by Ed Yong of The Atlantic.  

As technologies advance, more bioethics research and discussions are needed to evaluate if and when the genomic engineering of human embryos may be deemed medically necessarily and an ethical and safe practice. Bioethicists will take center place at these debates. Bioethicists research the ethical, legal and social implications of advanced biomedical technologies and produce evidence-based guidelines and policies. If you’re interested in contributing to this field, here is a roundup of jobs and training opportunities within the bioethics space.  

Weekly jobs roundup  

  • The Biomedical Ethics Research Program at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.) is seeking applicants for its summer Undergraduate Bioethics Internship program. This is a paid internship to gain both educational and research experiences in the bioethics field. The application deadline is Jan. 11.  
  • The Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Md.) is accepting applications for both its postdoctoral and postbaccalaureate bioethics fellowship programs. See the announcement for more details on qualifications and how to apply. The posting does state that no prior bioethics experience is required or expected. No application deadline is provided. Fellowships are to begin in September.  
  • The Department of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University is hiring a research assistant to assist faculty with qualitative-research studies, including literature reviews, conducting interviews and data analysis. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor's degree in the humanities, social sciences, public health or a related discipline and one to three years of relevant experience. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston) is recruiting a postdoctoral research fellow. Minimum qualifications include a terminal degree in health economics, social sciences, health policy, science policy, public health, health-outcomes research or a related field. The posting also states that candidates with advanced training in the biological sciences are welcome to apply. The application deadline is Jan. 18. (Note: The Center also is hiring a clinical ethics manager.)  
  • The American Medical Association (Chicago) is searching for an ethics fellow to work on developing AMA ethics policies, editorial support of the AMA Journal of Ethics and designing and delivering continuing-education training materials. Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D. or equivalent degree in a relevant field (e.g., health policy or medicine) and demonstrated experience in the scholarship of ethics. No application deadline is provided. (Note: The AMA also has an ongoing medical ethics internship program for students located in Chicago.)  
  • The Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington is recruiting a tenure-track assistant or associate professor. See the posting for more information on qualifications sought. No application deadline is provided. (Note: This position was posted in late August, so you may want to contact the department to make sure they are still reviewing applications.)  
  • The College of Arts and Science at Xavier University of Louisiana is seeking an assistant professor of medical humanities (see job posting number 1000711). Refer to the job announcement for more details and preferred areas of research interest as it relates to bioethics and other fields. The review of applications begins Jan. 7 and continues until the position is filled.  

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Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.   

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