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About United Kingdom Policies & Human Biotechnology


The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), established in 1991, is often considered a model for regulating and overseeing human biotechnologies. It licenses and monitors all research involving human embryos, and all facilities offering in vitro fertilization or storage of eggs, sperm, or embryos. UK law does not permit certain activities involving human embryos.

The HFEA's 21 members are appointed by UK Health Ministers; at least half of them are required to be neither doctors nor scientists involved in human embryo research or infertility treatment.

To grant a research license, the HFEA must be satisfied that the use of human embryos is "necessary or desirable" for an enumerated purpose. The HFEA inspects licensed clinics annually; produces a Code of Practice that guides clinics on proper conduct; keeps a formal registry for donors, treatments, and children born; and conducts public consultations on controversial applications.



US moves to sell gene-edited mushrooms fuel doubts over British ban on GM importsby Robin McKieThe Guardian April 23rd, 2016The USDA approved CRISPR-modified crops, but a European regulatory committee's delays are dismaying some UK researchers.
AstraZeneca launches project to sequence 2 million genomesby Heidi LedfordNature NewsApril 22nd, 2016One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies is partnering with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Craig Venter's Human Longevity to look for rare genetic differences between individuals.
Gene-editing research in human embryos gains momentumby Ewen CallawayNature NewsApril 19th, 2016Research experiments are now approved in Sweden, China and the United Kingdom.
Identity, disability and the genomeby Felicity BoardmanBioNewsApril 11th, 2016The voices of families living with the genetic diseases to be targeted by germline gene editing must be heard. It is their lives and stories that offer the most valuable insights into what we stand to lose.
‘Buffer genes’ may protect these 13 people from rare genetic diseasesby Jocelyn KaiserScience/AAASApril 11th, 2016Researchers analyzed the DNA of 589,000 anonymous donors, but could not contact the 13 people to verify they were healthy.
Jeremy Kyle DNA testing firm sees its £4.99 paternity testing kits flying off the shelvesby Tony McDonoughLiverpool EchoMarch 28th, 2016A company in the UK has begun selling paternity testing kits in discount chain stores -- and they are flying off the shelves.
Number of British women freezing their eggs soarsby Press AssociationThe GuardianMarch 23rd, 2016According to an HFEA report, the success rate of using frozen eggs was 14%, compared with an average 26% success rate of IVF using fresh eggs.
The Government seem more interested in our genes than our voicesby Edward Hockings & Lewis CoyneThe GuardianMarch 15th, 2016Policymakers in the UK are moving forward with plans to turn genetic information into potentially lucrative data. Can we trust our institutions with our genomes?
Uterus Transplants: Identifying Stakeholders & Objectionsby Elliot HosmanMarch 10th, 2016Clinical trials have migrated from Sweden to the US, and questions regarding safety, ethics, and social justice are mounting.
My Genes, Myself?by Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical Times guest contributorMarch 8th, 2016We have become accustomed to ascribing agency to individual genes. But every now and then a story comes along that reminds us just how foolish we are.
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