“The discoveries are what endure. We are just passing on this planet for a short time. We do our job, and then we leave, and others pick up the work.” – Emmanuelle Charpentier, co-creator with Doudna
The code breaker another #goodreads from Walter Isaacson, its a Biography of Jennifer Doudna, but reading the book, its also a biography of most powerful gene editing tool CRISPR. Typically to develop a vaccine, it takes somewhere between 8-10 years, however during COVID years, we could get effective vaccine within 8-10 months. Thanks to collaboration across board, but as well as due to availability of gene editing tool CRISPR, which helped build RNA based vaccine. The book traces the history and science of genetic editing, from Darwin to COVID-19.
As they say, with power comes responsibility, the gene editing tool can also modify human DNA permanently, leading to change in germline. i.e. we can make custom babies, have smart solders etc, which is off-course one of the few ethical dilemma discussed in this book.
Got wonderful insights on the journey of getting to this power full tools, as well as advantage of such tools, not only limited to vaccines, but also tools against Cancer, Sickle Cell syndrome etc..
Scientific community are aware of the power of such tools, which can be very well misused by governments, organization and capitalist, nevertheless rather banning the research all together, they like to bring safe-guards as well, which is right approach.
One more insight, people with very less know-how can edit genes in their back yard garage, and one can buy all the needed instruments and equipment to edit gene freely on Amazon! in fact few of such enthusiast developed their own COVID vaccines and tested on their own. (Democratizing gene editing using DIY tools!)
What will happen if this tool becomes available to all? it will be a tip toe effect, suppose you are standing last in a crowded room, and to have a good view, you raise your toe, and stand on tips of the toe, helping you get better view. Now imagine, everyone also stands on tip toe, all are risen by 1~2″, making difficult for all to see the what’s happening, except guys standing in first row (elite)
With some fair reasoning behind how CRISPR can change our lives vs how if not controlled, will lead to a dystopian society.
Highly recommending this book to know the history, present and possible insights in the future.
Some References and good reads –
- Do-it-yourself vaccines in a pandemic: democratized science or home-brewed pipe dream? – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (thebulletin.org)
- Netflix’s ‘Unnatural Selection’ Trailer Makes Crispr Personal | WIRED
- China’s Genetically Edited babies: What really happened? – Science in the News (harvard.edu)