Viewpoint: Why gene drives should be left in the hands of nonprofits

Specter ThePerilsandPromisesofGene DriveTechnology
Credit: Stuart Franklin/Magnum

Gene drive and other methods of editing the genomes of wild organisms could save millions of lives and prevent billions of animals from suffering each year. But advances that are intended to alter the shared environment must be developed and used wisely, if at all. For the foreseeable future, that means by nonprofits.

[G]ene drive systems could lastingly alter or suppress local or global populations of a target species, potentially eradicating insect-borne diseases, healing damaged ecosystems, and preventing animal suffering. As one of those who introduced CRISPR-based gene drive to the world, I hold myself morally responsible for any and all consequences that emerge from the technology.

Related article:  Using machine learning to hunt for the origins of new viruses

When people know you will benefit financially from a proposal, they’re less likely to trust your judgment. According to one recent study focused on biotechnology, support drops by more than 20 percent when people learn that a technology was developed by a for-profit company rather than a nonprofit one.

Gene drive and other ecotechnologies depend on popular support. Since they involve the genetic engineering of wild populations, that support is by no means guaranteed, especially if there is for-profit involvement.

Starting with gene drive won’t help the revenue stream from my own patents, but it’s the right thing to do.

Read full, original post: Gene drive should be a nonprofit technology

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