JKUAT Don Joins WHO on Developing Global Standards for Human Genome Editing

Prof. Muigai

Prof. Anne Muigai has joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory committee on developing global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing.

The Professor of Genetics at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, joins a global multi-disciplinary professional panel of 18 experts to examine the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges associated with human genome editing; both somatic and germ cell.

According to an announcement posted February 14, 2019 on the WHO website, the core of the exercise is to comprehend how to promote transparency and trustworthy practices and how to ensure appropriate risk and benefit assessments are performed prior to any decision on authorization. The recent application of tools such as CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the human genome have highlighted the need for the development of standards in this area.

The Committee’s first meeting scheduled on March 18-19 in Geneva will see the expert review the current landscape of human genome editing and discuss and agree on the work plan for the coming 12-18 months.

They will review the current literature on the state of the research and its applications, and societal attitudes towards the different uses of the human genome editing technology. WHO will then receive advice from the panel on appropriate oversight and governance mechanisms, both at the national and global level.

Prof. Muigai, the only Kenyan in the advisory committee, is a molecular population geneticist with over 15 years of experience in research, academic and administrative management. In 2016, jointly with her collaborators from Cambridge University, she published a paper titled Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya in the prestigious journal – Nature.

The paper documented the discovery of fossilised bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gathers, probably members of an extended family who were violently killed approximately 10,000 years ago in Nataruk, 30 km west of Lake Turkana, Kenya.

Prof. Muigai has served as the Chief Judge for Young Scientists Kenya, a Commissioner in the Commission for University Education, and a Director with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services.

While congratulating Prof. Muigai, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi said she has no doubt that Prof. Muigai’s vast experience and expertise in the field of genetics will be invaluable to the advisory committee and by extension to JKUAT.

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