“Honey, would you come with me to the Gene Store? There’s some new genes I’d like you to see.”
“You know dear… I’d rather shoot myself in the foot. Why don’t we just order the genes from Amazon like we did for baby Billy
Bob, or just wait a while?”
“There’s all kinds of package deals this weekend, order twenty and you get twenty-five for free, and that includes the cost of the splicing!”
“They’ll be cheaper in a few weeks, dear, when they come out with even better genes. I’m just saying.”
Sound farfetched? Not at all. CRISPR Cas9 gene-editing technology is barely three years old and yet on December, 21, 2015 the pharmaceutical giant Bayer announced that it will invest $353 million to partner with CRISPR Therapeutics, one several leaders in what Science magazine labeled, “The Breakthrough Technology of the Year. (2015)” MIT Technology Review goes further, calling CRISPR,“The Biggest Biotech Discovery of the Century,” whiles Forbes magazine crows that CRISPR “could change biotechnology forever.” With at least seven highly-funded biotech start-up companies vying for US Patents involving gene-editing, gene therapy, and gene manipulation, all aiming at the mega-billion dollar US market for gene improvement products, gene-editing is already an integral part of clinical therapeutics. One way or another, literally, it’s here to stay… and change our world.
One of several, but presently the most efficient gene-editing technology, the CRISPR Cas9 system was taken from from bacterial genes that produce enzymes to protect bacteria from viral infections. By targeting DNA sequences marked for modification, deleting the old and inserting the new genes, CRISPR Cas9 technology is cheap, relatively easy, and increasingly available to laboratories worldwide. As developments in this cut and paste program of gene manipulation move like an avalanche down a mountain pass the established scientific community is attempting to control the process and define the ethics of modifying human germlines that could easily spread and affect the evolution of our species. While a long and growing list of genetic and other diseases can potentially be cured by gene-editing techniques, as of October 13, 2015 the genetic insertion of specific traits, in dogs at least, is a fact-of-life. Also in October, another group of Chinese scientists announced the successful insertion of genes into a human embryo.