It is understood the parents are a male couple in the US, who are having the baby using a surrogate mother. Picture: AP

London - The first "designer baby" conceived using a controversial screening technique is expected to be born next year.

An embryo has been implanted into a surrogate using IVF by US firm Genomic Prediction.

Nathan Treff, chief scientific officer at the New Jersey firm, told the Mail "there is now a pregnancy confirmed" and it is hoped the baby will be born in 2020.

It is understood the parents are a male couple in the US, who are having the baby using a surrogate mother. 

The embryo has been selected through genetic sequencing to have a reduced risk of 11 diseases, including several types of cancer and diabetes. While such a test would be illegal in the UK, Genomic Prediction said it intends to apply for a licence with the watchdog Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Screening techniques are used in the UK to test for specific diseases caused by problems with one gene, such as cystic fibrosis in couples, who are likely to pass the gene on.

Critics say the techniques open the way for "eugenics", but scientists commenting on the study said screening embryos to create designer babies remains "science fiction".

Dr Kevin Smith, a bioethicist from Abertay University in Dundee, has published analysis that claims the risks of gene editing are now low enough to warrant its use with human embryos, according to The Independent.

The academic has argued that creating designer babies is both “ethically justifiable” and “highly desirable”, and predicted that the technique could kick-start a revolution in producing genetically-modified (GM) people.

“The human germline is by no means perfect, with evolution having furnished us with rather minimal protection from diseases that tend to strike in our later years, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia,” he wrote in the journal Bioethics.

Daily Mail