[W]hat’s to stop a madman, terrorist, or state from employing CRISPR to cause harm?… In her book A Crack in Creation, [CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna] wrote that she feared gene editing could come to the world’s attention, as atomic power did, in a mushroom cloud. “Could I and other concerned scientists save CRISPR from itself … before a cataclysm occurred?”
Now she would have a chance. Earlier in 2016, the US intelligence agencies had designated gene editing as a potential weapon of mass destruction. That September, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had jumped in, putting out a call for new ways to control or reverse the effects of gene-editing technology.
One problem, as DARPA saw it, was the lack of any easy-to-use countermeasure, undo button, or antidote for CRISPR. And the more powerful gene editing becomes, the more we might need one—in case of a lab accident, or worse.
Work on an antidote might also be helpful just as public relations. It could, at the very least, “tamp down the mental accessibility to a malign personality,” [researcher Joeseph] Schoeniger says. “If you can turn it off, maybe they won’t bother. From a psychological point of view, it’s nice to have an ‘off’ button.”
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