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University Medical Center Groningen

Jeantine Lunshof, PhD

Assistant professor, philosopher/ethicist
Jeantine Lunshof
Jeantine Lunshof

Dr Lunshof is Research Associate at the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering where she further develops the model of 'Collaborative Ethics', in the realm of synthetic biology and other technologies.

She is a long-time collaborator of George Church at the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

Studies: BA, 1977, in Philosophy, minor in Tibetan language & cutural studies, Hamburg University, Germany
RN, 1981, St. Elisabeth Hospital, Haarlem, Netherlands
MA, 1988, in Philosophy (Systemic Philosophy, Ethics, Medical Ethics) and Health Law, University of Amsterdam (UvA), Netherlands

PhD thesis: The new genomics: challenges for ethics, VU University Amsterdam, 2008. Thesis available here


See all my papers in PubMed or in GoogleScholar

Keywords: philosophy, ethics, bioethics, genomics, systems genetics, biobanking, pharmacogenomics, systems biology, synthetic biology, biological engineering, ecosystems


  • April 1st 2020, co-author of "Review Ethical issues related to brain organoid research" by
    Insoo Hyuna, J.C. Scharf-Deeringa, Jeantine E. Lunshof
  • March, 2020, co-author  of  "Social license and synthetic biology: the trouble
    with mining terms' by  Jason A. Delborne, Adam E. Kokotovich & Jeantine E. Lunshof    in the Journal of Responsible Innovation
  • July 1st 2019 Jeantine started at the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering (
  • March 2019: Publication of "Mice Against Ticks: an experimental
    community-guided effort to prevent tick-borne disease by altering the
    shared environment" resulting from the Greenwall Project 2017/2018.
  • March 2019: interviewed for the article: "Vijf jaar pauze genetisch aanpassen baby's" in het Nederlands Dagblad by René Fransen.
  • January 2019: interviewed for the article:  "Medicijn van de toekomst" by Marieke ten Kaaten and Rob Ramaker in Elsevier Weekblad
  • November 2018: interview by Chris Lydon on Opensource Radio. Discussion with Sheila Jasanoff and Daniel Kevles on Chinese germ line editing experiments: 'A splice of life'.
  • October 2018: A co-PI in NIH "The Brainstorm Project", which will examine the bioethics of growing brain organoids. See press release for more information.
  • September 2018: In dialogue with his holiness the Dalai Lama on 'Sickness, Ageing & Death. See newsitem about the event here. See a video of the dialogue here.
  • August 2018: Interviewed for the article "Building better ethics into the future of life sciences innovation" in Chemical & Engineering News
  • April 2018: The ethics of experimenting with human brain tissue, Comment in Nature, 26 April 2018, 556:429-432
  • January 2018: Interview about the ethics of cloning (in Dutch) on Dutch public affairs television program De Wereld Draait Door
  • December 2017: Now affiliated with MIT as a Research Scientist in the Media Lab
  • December 2017: Op-ed article in the Washington Post on drawing lines in genome editing, "Gene editing is now outpacing ethics".
  • October 2017: Talk on "Pigs for hearts and mice against ticks" at the COGEM Symposium on “Gene Edited Animals; Applications and Implications” in Rotterdam. A report by COGEM is publicly available.
  • September 2017: Radio interview on Highjacking mice to fight Lyme disease in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, on US NPR-Cape, Coast & Islands radio, studio in Woods Hole (18 mins). "Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have proposed to genetically modify mice to make them resistant to Lyme disease and then release those mice on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to see if they can break the cycle of transmission."
  • August 2017: Radio interview on Dutch NOS Radio 1 on xenotransplantations and dealing with PERVs in pigs (3 mins). "Pig organs are considered the most suitable for transplantation into humans. However, the presence of so-called porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) is prohibtive. Luhan Yang and George Church published a paper in Science on 10 August, describing the removal with CRISPR of all PERVs in pig cells and the birth of PERV-free piglets."
  • August 2017: Adaptive risk management of gene drive experiments: biosafety, biosecurity, and ethics by Jeantine Lunshof and Angela Birnbaum, in Applied Biosafety, Sage Publications.
    Abstract: Emerging technologies in the life sciences call for new models of biosafety risk management. We examine the question of how to address new developments in the life sciences and biosciences in a bottom-up manner—that is, from the concrete level of biosafety practice with a focus on the risk management and risk assessment of emerging technologies in the biology laboratory. We use research on “gene drives” as an example of challenging work with new constructs that have major biosafety implications for the work in the laboratory and beyond. Gene drives are intended for use in ecosystems and require, at an early stage, the consideration of potential future biosafety, biosecurity, and societal impact. We argue for an integrative approach, a truly collaborative model that involves scientists, biosafety officers, institutional leadership, and ethics consultants, with the aim of maximizing safety as well as scientific progress.
  • April 2017: Article in the Volkskrant. "Deze bio-ethicus staat Amerikaanse kloonwetenschappers bij" (in Dutch) a discussion with bioethicist Jeantine Lunshof about three intriguing experiments from an ethical point of view.
  • April 2017: An unbiased index to quantify participant’s phenotypic contribution to an open-access cohort describes a bioinformatic approach to quantifying the phenotypic data collected by the Personal Genome Project, an open public access repository of genotype and phenotype data where participants contribute their own phenotypic information. Scientific Reports 2017;7:46148. doi:10.1038/srep46148
  • March 2017: In Addressing the ethical issues raised by synthetic human entities with embryo-like features authors John Aach, Jeantine Lunshof, Eswar Iyer and George M Church call for the development of guidelines to address the ethics of experimenting on synthetic human tissue that shows traces of early embryonic development. See Harvard Medical School press release for more information. eLife 2017;6:e20674
  • February 2017: Interview in STAT. In a lab pushing the boundaries of biology, an embedded ethicist keeps scientists in check. "Rapid advances in genomics and stem cell biology are forcing researchers to regularly confront ethical quandaries that seem straight out of science fiction" and "There is essentially no limit to the technology, so we need to focus on the ethics and the humanity” as guides to how far to take the science."
  • January 2017: Radio interview on the ethical implications of the use of genetic engineering for the elimination Lyme disease on Dutch NOS radio 1 (8 mins) here, see also an article about gene drives in the NRC (in Dutch)

Since January 2017 I have been leading a bioethics research project that studies the ethical implications of the use of novel genetic engineering methods for the elimination of Lyme disease. This project is a unique collaboration with Professor Kevin Esvelt from the MIT Media Lab. Our project receives funding from the Greenwall Foundation, in the program ‘Making a Difference in Real-World Bioethics Dilemmas’. The project works in parallel with genetic engineering research that aims at ‘immunizing’ mice against Borrelia burgdorferi and/or tick saliva in order to prevent the transmission of tick-borne pathogens for which the mouse is a reservoir (see press release). Here, genome editing is used to alter an ecosystem. Such interventions in the shared space of the environment can only be initiated if acceptable to the communities involved. But, what does ‘acceptable’ mean? By what process should communities and scientists jointly make decisions from the earliest stages of project planning? Our project entitled “A mutually responsive approach to developing technologies that alter shared ecosystems” will develop a model that can serve as the normative backbone of Responsive Science.

The Genome Project-Write – engineering and testing large genomes in cell lines

Since early 2016 I have been involved as a philosopher/ethicist in the Genome Project-Write

What is the Genome Project-write?*
The Genome Project-write (HGP-write) will be an open, academic, international scientific research project led by a multi-disciplinary group of scientific leaders who will oversee a reduction in the costs of engineering and testing large genomes, including a human genome, in cell lines by over 1,000-fold within ten years. At the same time they will develop new technologies and an ethical framework for genome-scale engineering as well as transformative medical applications. The overarching goal of such an effort is to further our understanding of the blueprint for life provided by the Human Genome Project (HGP-read).

Who will be involved in HGP-write?
Ultimately, this multi-disciplinary effort will include an international group of biologists, chemists, computational biologists, engineers, social scientists, and ethicists. And, as noted in the Commentary published in Science on June 2, 2016, it will also require public involvement and consideration of social, ethical and legal implications (ELSI) from the start, as well as identifying common goals important to scientists and the wider public through timely and detailed consultation among diverse stakeholders.

From See the website for background information

Luister naar NOS radio interview met Jeantine Lunshof op 3 June 2016, 16:50h (in Dutch)

On Revision of the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology
Novel methods in high-precision genome editing open up a wide range of potential applications that do not neatly fit into current regulatory structures. Gene drives – genomic tools for interventions in wild species populations – are one such novel application. In the US, the so-called Coordinated Framework assigns regulatory tasks to the relevant agencies. The need for a revision of the Coordinated Framework and its policies has led to a call for recommendations, in response to which the Synthetic Biology Policy Group of the Program on Emerging Technologies (PoET) at MIT, led by Professor Ken Oye, has prepared a White Paper with suggestions. As a Marie Curie Fellow, and as ethics consultant to the Church lab and group member of PoET, I have been involved with both the science and the normative questions surrounding CRISPR-based genome editing and in particular the development of the combination of CRISPR edits with gene drives. See my recent Worldview in Nature (Regulate gene editing in wild animals) for more background on gene drives. More information can be found at


Genomic sciences and synthetic biology are driving progress in biology at an unprecedented pace, through advanced sequencing technologies and recently through biological engineering technologies including genome editing with CRISPR and other methods. These achievements that enable intervention in the genetic code of any organism and even allow to rewrite that code (, challenge common biological concepts and also certain assumptions in the humanities. Such new concepts will change the objectives of basic research, the translation of this research into practice, and, ultimately, the delivery and prioritization of health services. I am a philosopher and ethicist, working in a synthetic biology lab.

As a Marie Curie International Fellow (2013-2015) I was working on the project System, Networks, Norms (SysNorm) in which I investigated the philosophical implications of systems approaches in biomedicine, with the aim of developing innovative normative models for bioethics. The project was funded through the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013 – GA 298698).

The focus of my work as a philosopher and bioethicist is on groundbreaking developments in the field of fundamental research in genomics, systems genetics, and synthetic biology. I am also interested in the moral status of the human embryo and the conditions/limits for embryo research. My current interest is more specifically in questions that arise in the context of research into synthetic embryo-like entities. My research is on the theoretical and normative aspects of Personalized Medicine, and Biological Engineering, in particular genome editing. See Driving change, editing genomes

The Philosophy of Systems Biology is a major pillar of the theoretical framework underlying my research. My further interests include exploring the usefulness of philosophical discourse practices for dealing with genomics' benchside questions and developing curricula and teaching research integrity, i.e. the conduct of science in the life sciences.


I spent the years 2013–2014 as a Marie Curie Fellow at Harvard Medical School, in the Church lab of the Department of Genetics. I have been ethics consultant to the Personal Genome Project at the Genetics Department of Harvard Medical School since 2006, and to the Center for Excellence in Genomic Science (CEGS), Center for Causal Consequences of Variation (CCV) since 2010, and the Center for Genomically Engineered Organs (CGEO) since 2015. All these programs are directed by Prof. George Church.

Since 2006 I have been an Affiliate Member of the NIH/NIGMS Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN). In 2014, I became an Associate Faculty member at the Harvard Center for Bioethics. I am also a member of the ‘Conduct of Research’ Steering Committee, Division of Medical Sciences, Harvard Medical School. For the final year of my Marie Curie Fellowship I returned to the Genetics Department, University Medical Center Groningen, where I have been an Assistant Professor since 2015. I am currently a visiting scientist at the Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School.

Selected Publications

See all my papers in PubMed or in GoogleScholar

  • Guidance on stakeholder engagement practices to inform the development of area-wide vector control methods  Delphine Thizy, Claudia Emerson, Johanna Gibbs, Sarah Hartley, Lydia Kapiriri, James Lavery, Jeantine Lunshof, Janine Ramsey, Julie Shapiro, Jerome Amir Singh, Lea Pare Toe, Isabelle Coche, Benjamin Robertson, PLOS, 2019
  • Revisiting the Warnock rule Is it time to reassess the 14-day rule for human embryo research? Hurlbut JB, Hyun I, Levine AD, Lovell-Badge R, Lunshof JE, et al Nat Biotechnol 2017;35(11):1029-1042. doi: 10.1038/nbt.4015
  • Implications of Mitochondrial Dysfunction for the Anesthetic and Perioperative Management: A Case Report of Spinal Fusion, Genetic Confusion, and a Patient's Perspective Aglio LS, Lockhart BT, Lunshof JE, Nabzdyk CS. A A Case Rep. 2017 Oct 12. doi: 10.1213/XAA.0000000000000641
  • An unbiased index to quantify participant’s phenotypic contribution to an open-access cohort. Chan Y, Tung M, Garruss AS, Zaranek SW, Chan YK, Lunshof JE, [...] Church GM. Scientific Reports 2017;7:46148. doi:10.1038/srep46148
  • Addressing the ethical issues raised by synthetic human entities with embryo-like features Aach J, Lunshof J, Iyer E & Church GM eLife 2017;6:e20674. doi: 10.7554/eLife.20674. Erratum in: Elife 2017 Apr 13;6
  • GENOME ENGINEERING. The Genome Project-Write. Boeke JD, Church G, [...] Lunshof J, [...] Way JC, Yang L. Science 2016;353:126-127. doi:10.1126/science.aaf6850
  • On Revision of the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology A White Paper Prepared for Consideration by the Biotechnology Working Group - Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee. January 20, 2016, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • Human germ line editing—roles and responsibilities Lunshof JE, Commentary. Protein Cell 2016:7:7-10
  • Regulate gene editing in wild animals JE Lunshof, Nature 2015;521:127
  • Barash CI, Lunshof JE. Reciprocity and transparency: Normative principles of data sharing. Applied & Translational Genomics 2014;3:122-123
  • Kevin Esvelt, George Church and Jeantine Lunshof. “Gene Drives” and CRISPR Could Revolutionize Ecosystem Management. Scientific American, Guest blog, July 17 2014
  • Lunshof J, Chadwick R. Genomics, inconvenient truths and accountability. In: Chadwick R, Levitt M, Shickle D (Eds). The Right to Know and the Right Not to Know – Genetic Privacy and Responsibility. Cambridge University Press, 2014
  • Ball MP, Bobe JR, Chou MF, Clegg T, Estep PW, Lunshof JE, Vandewege W, Zaranek A, Church GM. Harvard Personal Genome Project: lessons from participatory public research. Genome Med 2014;6:10
  • Lunshof JE, Church GM, Prainsack B. Raw personal data: providing access. Science 2014;343:373-374
  • Jeantine E. Lunshof. Whole genomes, small children, big questions. Personalized Medicine 2012;9:667-669
  • Ball MP, Thakuria JV, Zaranek AW, Clegg T, Rosenbaum AM, Wu X, Angrist M, Bhak J, Bobe J, Callow MJ, Cano C, Chou MF, Chung WK, Douglas SM, Estep PW, Gore A, Hulick P, Labarga A, Lee JH, Lunshof JE, Kim BC, Kim JI, Li Z, Murray MF, Nilsen GB, Peters BA, Raman AM, Rienhoff HY, Robasky K, Wheeler MT, Vandewege W, Vorhaus DB, Yang JL, Yang L, Aach J, Ashley EA, Drmanac R, Kim SJ, Li JB, Peshkin L, Seidman CE, Seo JS, Zhang K, Rehm HL, Church GM. A public resource facilitating clinical use of genomes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012;109(30):11920-11927
  • Kolodkin A, Boogerd FC, Plant N, Bruggeman FJ, Goncharuk V, Lunshof J, Moreno-Sanchez R, Yilmaz N, Bakker BM, Snoep JL, Balling R, Westerhoff HV. Emergence of the silicon human and network targeting drugs. Eur J Pharm Sci 2012;46:190-197
  • Becla L, Lunshof JE, Gurwitz D, Schulte In den Bäumen T, Westerhoff HV, Lange BM, Brand A. Health technology assessment in the era of personalized health care. Int J Tech Assessment in Health Care 2011;27(2):118-26
  • JE Lunshof, R Chadwick. Editorial. Genetic and Genomic Research – Changing Patterns of Accountability.  Accountability in Research 2011;18(3):121-131. Guest Editor Special Issue: Impact of Genomics Research on Ethical Issues.
  • Jeantine E Lunshof, Jason Bobe, John Aach, Misha Angrist, Joseph V Thakuria, Daniel B Vorhaus, Margret R Hoehe, George M Church. Personal genomes in progress: from the Human Genome Project to the Personal Genome Project. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 2010;12:47-60
  • David Gurwitz, Isabel Fortier, Jeantine E. Lunshof and Bartha Maria Knoppers. Children and Population Biobanks. Science 2009;325:818-819
  • Barbara Prainsack, Jenny Reardon, Richard Hindmarsh, Herbert Gottweis, Ursula Naue & Jeantine E. Lunshof. Misdirected precaution. Nature 2008;456:34-35.
  • Jeantine E. Lunshof. The new genomics and personal genome information: ethical issues. In M. Janitz (Ed.) Next Generation Genome Sequencing. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. 2008;245-254
  • Jeantine E Lunshof, Ruth Chadwick, Daniel B. Vorhaus and George M. Church. From genetic privacy to open consent. Nature Reviews Genetics 2008;9:406-411
  • Jeantine E. Lunshof, Ruth Chadwick, George M. Church. Hippocrates revisited? Old ideals and new realities. Genomic Medicine 2008;2:1-3.
  • Gurwitz D, Lunshof JE, Altman RB. A Call for the Creation of Personalized Medicine Databases. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2006;5:23-26
  • G Church, J Lunshof, D Vorhaus. “White Paper” on Informed Consent Protocols. August 2006 (NIH/NHGRI); November 2006, publicly available
  • JE Lunshof. Personalized medicine: how much can we afford? A bioethics perspective. Personalized Medicine 2005;2(1):43-47
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