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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Florida: Dr. Katherine Drabiak Fights Public Perception about Gene-editing Research

You might have heard a lot about germline genome editing and the wondrous stories of creation and healing that it promises to produce.

But that’s more fiction than fact says Dr. Katherine Drabiak, an attorney and assistant professor of bioethics and genomics at the University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH).

Dr. Drabiak, whose work was recently published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, focused her research on evaluating the scientific claims promoted by media outlets about the modification of human embryos to create children. She then looked at the science and found that financial incentives and scientific prestige were often pushing germline genome editing, despite safety and efficacy concerns.

“It was being described [in the media] as being precise and efficient,” said Dr. Drabiak. “So there was really this disconnect between how well and precisely it works, what the science is actually showing us, and how this impacts federal policy.”

Through her research, Dr. Drabiak also pointed out how most people don’t even have an accurate understanding of what germline genome editing is because of how it is talked about on media platforms.

“How [genome editing] is explained gives the sense that you can cut one gene out and replace it and it’s fixed, but scientifically that’s not how it works. There are always multiple genes that control how one gene works,” explained Dr. Drabiak.

In order to address the legal, ethical and social effects of germline gene editing, Dr. Drabiak got the opportunity to participate in an international workshop at the Brocher Foundation in Switzerland.

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