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Design of contemporary embryo protection in Germany (Completed)

Specifically targeted genetic alterations to human embryos for research and reproduction purposes are prohibited and penalized in Germany under the now almost 30-year-old Embryo Protection Act (ESchG). Through this statute, which is anchored in criminal law, the legislator intended to establish the limits for influencing human life by assisted reproduction techniques and genetic engineering.

Scientific progress, three decades of experience in reproductive medicine and legal inconsistencies, e.g. in comparison with the regulations on contraception, abortion, and preimplantation diagnostics, necessitate an adjustment of the legal concept laid down in the ESchG and the protection of embryos. The current state of knowledge, the actual practice of reproductive medicine itself and globally emerging developments, such as gene therapy on human embryos, must be taken into account.

The working group is developing proposals for a scientifically sound, legally and ethically acceptable approach. In doing so, the pluralism in questions of human dignity and the protection of the life of embryos and impregnated ova in the pronuclear stage, as well as the protection of freedom of research and the interests of future patients must be factored into the process.


  • National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (responsible)
  • Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities

Spokespersons of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Bärbel Friedrich ML, Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina
  • Prof. Dr. Jochen Taupitz ML, Institut für Deutsches, Europäisches und Internationales Medizinrecht, Gesundheitsrecht und Bioethik der Universitäten Heidelberg und Mannheim

Members of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Claus Bartram ML
    Institut für Humangenetik, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
  • Dr. Jan Ellenberg ML, Abteilung Cell Biology and Biophysics am European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg
  • Prof. Dr. Boris Fehse
    Zentrum für Onkologie, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)
  • Prof. Dr. Heribert Kentenich
    Fertility Center Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Robert Kumsta
    Research Department of Neuroscience, Abteilung Genetische Psychologie, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • Prof. Dr. Christof Niehrs ML
    Institut für Molekulare Biologie, Mainz und Abteilung Molekulare Embryologie, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Universität Heidelberg
  • Prof. Dr. Markus M. Nöthen ML
    Institut für Humangenetik, Universitätsklinikum Bonn
  • Prof. Dr. Bettina Schöne-Seifert ML
    Institut für Ethik, Geschichte und Theorie der Medizin, Universität Münster
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Tanner ML
    Theologisches Seminar, Professur für Systematische Theologie und Ethik, Universität Heidelberg
  • Dr. Petra Thorn
    Praxis für Paar- und Familientherapie/Psychosoziale Kinderwunschberatung, Mörfelden
  • Prof. Dr. Jörg Vogel ML
    Institut für Molekulare Infektionsbiologie (IMIB), Universität Würzburg und Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Würzburg
  • Prof. Dr. Claudia Wiesemann
    Institut für Ethik und Geschichte der Medizin, Universitätsmedizin Göttingen
  • Prof. Dr. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker ML
    Genzentrum der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

ML = Member oft the Leopoldina



Dr. Henning Steinicke

Scientific officer, Deputy Head of Department Science – Policy – Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 864
E-Mail henning.steinicke (at)leopoldina.org



Dr. Johannes Fritsch

Head of Office of the Joint Committee for the Handling of Security-Relevant Research

Phone 0160 9121 2676
Fax 030 - 241 8987 - 477
E-Mail johannes.fritsch (at)leopoldina.org