CORE 105-
Future of Technology Policy
Spring 2019

Back to Course main page

Back to Schedule

Week 6  – CRISPR-Cas9 – Gene-Editing for Everyone

You can copy and paste from Wikipedia into Google Docs, right?  What if gene-editing were that easy? What are the right questions to debate? Who gets to decide?

We start by learning what CRISPR-Cas9 is, at least a little (you don’t actually know what happens inside a computer when you cut and paste, do you?).  What is gene editing? Are there applications of gene editing that might make humanity (or individuals) better off?  Are there applications that maybe should be avoided, or prohibited, or federally funded?

Start with a video of Jennifer Doudna, a creator of CRISPR-Cas9 – either the BBC interview or her TEDtalk.  What questions does she raise that policy makers might need to think about?

BBC Hardtalk (24 min) –

or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuqX3Jb7rRA (2018) or audio;

or watch her TEDtalk and matching article  (2015, 15 min)

This might be a great time to review our policy-evaluation criteria from Kraft & Furlong:

Policy questions are related to ethical questions. Science writer Heidi Ledford, raises some of these concerns in a recent issue of the highly-reputable Nature, , “CRISPR the Disruptor,” nature.com (June 2015)

And this is all moving very fast.  After human experiments and births in late 2018 in China, U.S. efforts are continuing – although not yet to birth: “New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos,” Feb 1, 2019, NPR

“CRISPR might have made China’s “designer babies” smarter – Interesting Engineering, Feb 22, 2019

Most Americans probably don’t understand the basics of gene-editing, but they seem to have a sense of possible implications. A poll on the uses of gene-editing:  “Poll: Edit baby genes for health, not smarts,” Associated Press, Dec 29, 2018

Finally, maybe we are thinking of this as the “future of technology policy” but really it’s the “right-now of technology policy” – we know that policy always lags behind technology.  This guy is already selling gene-editing starter kits. “East Bay Biochemist Sells ‘Gene-Editing Kit’ for the Masses,” CBS San Francisco, Jan 29, 2019

If this is the stuff you love – because you’re a pre-med major, or a health sciences or technology or ethics person, or you’ve never actually seen any Congressional testimony, help yourself to as much of the following as you like. None is required:

U.S. Senate Cmte on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions:
Gene Editing Technology: Innovation and Impact (2017)

Matthew Porteus, Stanford Univ
Katrine Bosley, Editas Medicine
Jeffrey Kah, Johns Hopkins Univ

You can read the executive summary (page 1) of Porteus, the introduction (page 1-3) of Bosley, and all of Kahn (p. 1-5) – or, if you just can’t get enough, watch the entire hearing (1h37m) – you are not required to watch the whole thing or any of this (but you should at least look at those summaries)

Update: 3/17/2019 – A call for international governance of heritable CRISPR https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00726-5