What’s the biggest invention of the past five or 10 years? I would pick the gene-editing technology known as Crispr-Cas9. Because it gives scientists an easy way to fix mutations and activate dormant genes, Crispr has already helped them better understand the links between genetics and disease and opened the door to precise gene-therapy treatments. It’s also raising the prospect of genetically modified crops and livestock that don’t borrow genes from other species. It’s no wonder that dozens of startups are racing to harness Crispr and related technologies.
But how far should we take it, and how fast? Should we edit human embryos to remove deleterious traits, and while, we’re at it, put in some beneficial ones? The prospect is real—and already troubling even some of the early developers of the technology.
Revisiting MIT Technology Review’s top Crispr-related stories from the past two years, I was struck by how quickly the technology has reshaped biotechnology and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital. Will it soon revolutionize medical practice as well?
Innovator Under 35: Feng Zhang, August 2013, by David Rotman
Genome Surgery, February 2014, by Susan Young
Genome Editing: the Experiment and the Impact, April 2014, by Christina Larson and Amanda Schaffer
Who Owns the Biggest Biotech Discovery of the Century?, December 2014, by Antonio Regalado
Engineering the Perfect Baby, March 2015, by Antonio Regalado
Genome Gambits, April 2015, by Jennifer A. Doudna