Efforts to enhance safety measures for CRISPR/Cas-based gene drive technology in Japan

T. Tanaka, N. Tanaka, Y. Nagano, H. Kanuka, D. S. Yamamoto, N. Yamamoto, E. Nanba and T. Nishiuch,  Journal of Environment and Safety,  2019.

Gene drive is a powerful system that can spread a desirable genetic trait into an entire species and/or population of a certain region,
bypassing Mendelian rules of inheritance. Recently, one of the genome editing technologies, CRISPR/Cas, has been developed, making it easier to use gene drive in many different organisms. However, gene drive has potential risks that impact genetic diversity when organisms produced by CRISPR/Cas-based Gene Drive Technology (CCGDT) are accidentally released; therefore, a high degree of prudence is required when CCGDT is used. In Japan, a Working Group on Gene Drive has been established in the Academic Association for Promotion of Genetic Studies
(AAPGS), and a Statement on the Handling of Gene Drive was issued to the public including research institute across Japan, after comprehensive and extensive discussions by the working group in order to reduce risks posed by CCGDT. A national-wide survey on CCGDT was implemented. The survey revealed that those in managerial positions including members and secretariats of institutional review boards on recombinant DNA, and biosafety officers are conscious of CCGDT, and efforts to grasp experimental plans involving CCGDT are made by utilizing an application form for recombinant DNA experiment. In contrast, potential risks of CCGDT are not understood by many researchers. All stakeholders need to disseminate potential risks and preventive measures regarding CCGDT to all researchers who may wish to use this technology. Researchers should use CCGDT upon understanding its potential risks and taking necessary measures. This report refers to how safety measures for CRISPR/Cas-based gene drive technology which has potential risks to ecological system has been discussed and results of national-wide questionnaire survey on gene drive in Japan based on the poster presentation at the Asian Conference on Safety & Education in Laboratory 2018.