Molecular biology and recombinant DNA technologies have led to many important discoveries in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, as well as advances in human health. Examples such as the manufacture of synthetic human insulin, the creation of vaccines, development of cancer therapies, sequencing and detection of viruses, and advances in personalized medicine have all helped to improve our quality of life. Further, molecular biology techniques have played a major role in facilitating criminal investigations, helping consumer products to be more efficient and eco-friendly, and establishing improved methods for processing of various foods, such as yogurt and cheese.
New England Biolabs (NEB) is committed to practicing ethical science – we believe it is our responsibility as researchers to ask the important questions that when answered will help preserve our quality of life and the world that we live in. However, this research should always be done in safe and ethical manner. Our position on specific topics relating to practicing ethical science is included below.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
GMOs have been used for decades to produce diagnostic and therapeutic agents, including treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, leukemia, breast cancer, and metastatic cancers, as well as to produce recombinant insulin. As such, with proper research and regulatory oversight, GMOs are positively impacting people’s lives and well-being.
GMOs have additionally expanded our understanding of agriculture and food science, making them especially impactful in countries with food shortages. Experience to date, which includes both animal consumption of GMOs, such as soy beans, and human consumption of GM papaya, egg plants and other food crops, has led to zero problems being reported. While safety is always a key concern, we know of no reason to currently consider that GMO crops carry any more risk than traditionally bred crops.
At NEB, we encourage scientists to continue to work to improve the food industry through active discussions with scientific peers, the public, and regulatory authorities, and to bring GMO products to market, especially in the developing world.
Molecular Testing for the Cannabis Industry
As a research-based commercial organization that is primarily focused on developing quality enzymes and reagents for molecular biology applications, NEB strongly supports and encourages integrated and evidence-based approaches for the discovery and use of any beneficial pharmaceutical agents.
Biological agents that can cause harm to humans, animals and/or the environment, should never be used to intimidate or coerce a government, a civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. Therefore, NEB does not promote or condone any form of biological warfare or bioterrorism.
Germline Gene Editing
Since the safety and efficacy of CRISPR/Cas9 for human therapeutics have not been firmly established, premature use of genome editing jeopardizes acceptance of this promising advance in science and medicine.
As a leading provider of the enzymes used for CRISPR research, NEB does not currently support the use of genome editing in human germline tissues or embryos.
Advances in molecular biology have fueled the development of DNA forensics. The use of DNA forensics to rapidly identify or eliminate suspects from criminal investigations, and to identify the victims of natural and man-made disasters, has had a major impact on society’s awareness of the power of genomics. These applications, as well as the use of these technologies to study the evolution of mankind and its global migration patterns, are both supported and encouraged by NEB.
Unfortunately, these same technologies can also be used to profile individuals into different classes, whether it be based on ethnicity, race, gender or other genetic traits, and then used to single out individuals for different treatment or scrutiny. NEB does not promote or condone such practices and will not knowingly allow the sale of its products to anyone for such use.
Individuals who use biohacking or DIY (“do-it-yourself”) molecular biology techniques outside of a regulated environment to develop therapeutics and diagnostic tests, or alter their own bodies, typically forgo the stringent review and/or key toxicity tests that are required. Therefore, without rigorous peer-reviewed testing in the laboratory and clinic, it is very difficult to predict how these will affect the human condition. Even when not used for these more regulated applications, it is important that any experiments are designed and performed in line with the appropriate laboratory and ethical guidelines, which are typically best understood by professionals in the field.
As a leading provider of research use only (RUO) reagents, some of which could potentially be used for biohacking, NEB does not condone any practice which could jeopardize the health and safety of any individual involved.