CRISPRcon talks designer babies and scientific colonialism


While lacking the costuming of Comic-Con or revelry of SantaCon, [CRISPRCon’s] second annual geek-out dealt with a concept weightier than superheroes or public drunkenness: How should society deal with a technology that can literally reshape the world?

If you get a bunch of people in a room to talk about gene editing, there’s one topic guaranteed to come up: designer babies.

“That’s something we’re far away from,” said Feng Zhang, a scientist at the Broad Institute and a CRISPR pioneer. “Decades. Maybe longer.”


“People say it’s wrong to modify the genome of a baby because they can’t consent to it,” said Anna Everette of the New York Academy of Sciences. “But the counterpoint is that they didn’t consent to being conceived.”

Related article:  Viewpoint: We need better access to genetic tests to fulfill the promise of precision medicine

Among CRISPR’s many dazzling applications is the promise of rewiring animals to eradicate infectious disease or save an endangered species. It sounds great on paper — edit a mouse, tinker with a tree, save a community — but the realities of culture make it infinitely more complicated.


To [Antonio Cosme] following through on [the promise to give control to communities] would require the powers that be in academia to step down from their ivory towers, accept some humility, and relinquish control to people without terminal degrees — something scientists have been loath to do in the past.

Read full, original post: What we heard at CRISPRCon: talk of designer babies, IP battles, and scientific colonialism

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