CRISPR: A guide to the health revolution that will define the 21st century

Scientists are a cautious bunch, fond of a caveat even when describing their own research. “Our favourite expressions are ‘Yes, but…’ and ‘On the other hand…’ and ‘It remains unclear…’” says gene editor Dr Fyodor Urnov. “So please add all of that to what I’m about to say.

“If CRISPR realises 10 per cent of what we practitioners of gene editing dream it to be able to do, it will rival the greatest advances in the history of biomedicine as a technology to impact public health.”

Urnov is talking via a crackly Zoom link from his office at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) in Berkeley, California, which is at the forefront of what may prove to be the defining scientific breakthrough of the 21st Century.

CRISPR is a genome editing technology that allows scientists to cut DNA with incredible precision and insert or delete DNA to correct unwanted mutations. To oversimplify the technology, it’s the power to edit the building blocks of life, just like text on a computer screen. Not only could it enable scientists to switch off genes that lead to a broad spectrum of disease, but it will unshackle all of us from the genetics we’re born with.


COVID-19, Global Health, CRISPR





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