Jennifer Doudna

Gene editing is taking huge steps right now. The CRISPR technology is what really drove down costs and sped up experimentations. CRISPR will have huge effects on human health, our food system (both animals and plants) and numerous other fields (if that isn't already enough).

And these effects will already arrive within five to ten years. In fact, the first genetically tailored human might have been born a few weeks ago in China.

One of the people who were awarded a Nobel prize for CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna, is telling two stories in this book:

  1. How did CRISPR come to be? This story is very educational, as it first lays the foundation for what genes are and how we might edit them. Then it explains the discovery of CRISPR (in a bacterium) and how it was engineered to be a tool that can cheaply do almost any alterations to genes you could think of, in a cheap and rather precise manner (more researcgh on preciseness would be good, but preciseness also depends on how well you can describe the change you want to make).
  2. What happened or might happen afterwards in scientific discoveries and public discussion? Doudna believes that change is coming so fast now, that the public needs to be informed as fast as possible, so that it can weigh in at all. 

According to Doudna, we are on the verge to "human-directed evolution".

That we are unprepared for such a colossal responsibility, I have no doubt. But we cannot avoid it. If controlling our own genetic destiny is a terrifying thought, then consider the consequences of having this power, but not managing to control it. That would be truly terrifying - truly unthinkable.

There are some incredible opportunities in gene editing, for instance w.r.t. to huge tasks as feeding the world, avoiding desease or climate change, But being able to change the human genome, especially so soon and with the economic inequality we are facing, can really change societal fabric in a novel dimension.

It's worthwhile to be aware of this, and this book does a good job at it.


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