Playing God: CRISPR and the Revolution in Genome Editing


Two decades after the completion of the Human Genome Project, scientists have slashed the cost of sequencing a human genome to a mere $1,000. But in addition to easily reading DNA, we can now edit DNA, much like editing a Word document. A new technology called CRISPR – adapted from a bacterial anti-viral immune system — gives scientists the power to edit the DNA sequence of any gene in any organism. This new technology heralds a new era in gene therapy and the ability to engineer new properties in crops and livestock, with myriad applications including organ transplantation, malaria eradication and woolly mammoth de-extinction. But in 2018, a Chinese scientist elected to ignore the medical establishment when he directed the birth of twin girls from a gene-edited human embryo. We are only beginning to grapple with the ethical questions posed by this event and the new reality of “Playing God.” British author Kevin Davies (a former Lexington resident) has written extensively about advances in genome research and medicine over the past two decades. In this talk – a preview of his book, Editing Mankind, to be published in 2020 — Kevin will discuss how CRISPR has exploded onto the scientific landscape and spotlight the exciting and controversial areas in science and medicine that will be impacted in the years ahead.

Kevin Davies is a scientific editor, author and publisher. He is the founding editor of Nature Genetics, and Executive Editor of The CRISPR Journal, a new peer-review journal on gene editing. Kevin is the author of several popular science books including Cracking the Genome and The $1,000 Genome. He is also a co-author with Nobel laureate Jim Watson and Andrew Berry of DNA: The Story of the Genetic Revolution. Kevin is the recipient of a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship and is writing a new book on CRISPR and genome editing. Kevin holds a degree in biochemistry from Oxford University and a PhD in human genetics from St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. After postdoctoral research fellowships at MIT and Harvard Medical School, he moved into science publishing at Nature magazine.

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