ELSI initiative in genome-related technologies


With the decoding of human genome and the emergence of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology, we are entering a new era of artificial designing and synthesizing of genome sequences at our will. Not only have we witnessed that genomic technologies contributing to the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, these technologies also have a potential to bring about considerable benefits in many ways, such as the designing of eco-friendly microorganisms that require no fertilization, and revival of the scent of extinct flowers. Meanwhile, it could impose a negative impact on life, species, and even the ecosystem as genetic information is the "blueprint of life." Therefore, promoting R&D of technologies using genome information requires careful considerations of ELSI/RRI, and the establishment of norms and values which should provide the foundation for such a technological advancement.
Under such a circumstance, the strategic objective of "Establishing Technologies for Genome-scale DNA Synthesis and Functional Expression, and Creating Technology Seeds for Material Production and Medical Care" put forth by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in 2018 expresses the need to engage in ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI).

Current Activities

In collaboration with the "Large-Scale Genome Synthesis and Cell Programming" program of the JST Strategic Basic Research Programs (CREST/PRESTO), we have set up and are managing the "Forum on genome ethics", which consists of researchers in humanities and social sciences (HSS), researchers in natural sciences, and various stakeholders from industry and business sectors. The Forum has been surveying national and international trends in ELSI/RRI of genome-related technologies since FY2018. It also started joint-hosting of workshops and seminars with CREST/PRESTO since FY2021, in order to foresee and respond to ELSI concerning R&D in the field of genome synthesis, and to deliberate how to realize RRI. In FY2021 and FY2022, based on the results of past discussions and questionnaire surveys, RISTEX prepared maps showing ELSI-related points, considering the background of each point and the relationship among multiple points. In addition, in FY2023, RISTEX conducted case studies to identify and investigate ELSI-related points of two projects from CREST/PRESTO. In the case study, RISTEX also interviewed groups of citizens to incorporate non-expert opinions. Reports and information about seminar series can be viewed from RISTEX website.


  • Overseas trend survey
  • Social listening survey
  • Analysis of ELSI/RRI cases in the past
  • Survey to overview Japanese and overseas policies/regulations related to life sciences
  • Survey of laboratory studies
  • Survey to overview Japanese and overseas open bio-lab centers
  • Survey of dual use and biosecurity/safety in genome-related technologies

Reports can be downloaded at: https://www.jst.go.jp/ristex/internal_research/elsi/genome/genome_survey.html (available only in Japanese)

Related Links

Large-scale genome synthesis and cell programming

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