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Gene-Editing Gets A Go-Ahead

An artist’s rendering of the powerful genome editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9. (Courtesy Stephen Dixon)
An artist’s rendering of the powerful genome editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9. (Courtesy Stephen Dixon)

With guest host Anthony Brooks.

Growing support for human gene-editing. We’ll look at new breakthroughs and the ethical debate.

Those in the know call CRISPR “one of the greatest life science inventions ever.” It has sparked a headline-grabbing patent fight worth billions of dollars. But more importantly, it has revolutionized the ability to make precise changes to human DNA, opening the door to revolutionary ways to treat disease – but also to ethical questions about engineered designer babies. This hour On Point, the brave new world of human DNA editing and CRISPR.


Joel Achenbach, science reporter for the Washington Post. (@joelachenbach)

Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at the Johns Hopkins University, where he is also a professor of health policy and management. (@kahnethx)

Dr. Matthew Porteus, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University.

George Annas, director of the Center for Health Law, Ethics and Human Rights at Boston University. (@georgejannas)

From The Reading List

STAT: Broad Institute prevails in heated dispute over CRISPR patents — “The CRISPR case began in January 2016, when the patent office granted UC’s request to launch an ‘interference’ proceeding. That means the patent office was willing to entertain the possibility that the CRISPR-Cas9 patent application that UC filed in May 2012, but which the patent office had not issued, claimed essentially the same invention as the patent awarded to the Broad in April 2014. The award to the Broad might therefore have “interfered” with UC’s application.”

National Academy of Sciences: Human Genome Editing — Science, Ethics, and Governance — “As with other medical advances, each new potential use of genome editing carries a unique set of benefits, risks, regulatory issues, and societal implications. Important questions that have been raised about human genome editing include: how to balance potential benefits with the risk of unintended harms; how to govern the use of genome editing; how to incorporate societal values into clinical applications and policy decisions, and how to respect the inevitable differences across nations and cultures that will

shape diverse perspectives about whether and how to use these technologies.”

Washington Post: Ethicists advise caution in applying CRISPR gene editing to humans — “Ethicists have been working overtime to figure out how to handle CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technique that could potentially prevent congenital diseases but could also be used for cosmetic enhancements and lead to permanent, heritable changes in the human species.”

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