Tinkering with (embryo) DNA can potentially prevent genetic diseases, but it also creates all kinds of dilemmas. For example, changes in DNA can be passed on to future generation. A topic like this should be discussed in a democratic society. But how do you shape this social dialogue and what values are at stake? That is what Public Realm Entrance and Societal Alignment of Germline Editing (PRESAGE) is about. The goal of PRESAGE is to find out what values and needs exist in our society when it comes to DNA modification, how to involve hard-to-reach groups in the dialogue, and how the outcomes of that dialogue can be translated into regulation.
As part of PRESAGE, Jacobs will spend the next four years in the Department of Legal Theory & History conducting doctoral research on the legal and legal-philosophical dimension of societal decision-making on genetic modification of offspring. Jacobs will identify the values and beliefs that underlie existing regulations on germline modification and then compare these to the values and beliefs that emerge from the public debate on germline modification. ‘’In addition, I will examine the symbolic functions and dimensions of law and contemplate how law can contribute to that public conversation,'' Jacobs said.
The NWA application was submitted by an interdisciplinary consortium led by Dr. Sam Riedijk of the department of clinical genetics at Erasmus MC. The full list of consortium partners can be viewed here. Professor Britta van Beers was a co-applicant. Van Beers is delighted with the grant award. 'Since the birth of the genetically modified twin sisters in China in 2018, people around the world are aware of the need for a social dialogue on germline modification. ’’Thanks to this grant, we can be one of the first countries to conduct research on this topic.’’