The excitement felt by biologists was well expressed by the Hinxon
Steering Committee in its report in its description of the wide range of
beneficial uses for CRISPR. Such uses include mitochondrial diseases; early
application to complex diseases with single-target solutions; safer treatment
and screening of single germ cells; and improving reproductive possibilities
where preimplantation genetic diagnosis and in vitro fertilization (PGD-IVF)
is not acceptable for medical or personal reasons.
To put it another way, CRISPR genome editing in human sperm, eggs and
embryos has tremendous promise in basic research. Embryos can be cultured
with better implantation rates and fewer miscarriages; stem-cell lines can be
developed for research, miscarriages can be prevented, drugs screened for
efficacy, all while reducing the need for using embryos in research; fertility
can be enhanced; and genome editing overall can be improved.
CRISPR goes beyond human germline editing. One bioengineer noted
that “genome editing shows great promise for next-generation plastics,
agricultural products, bioremediation organisms, carbon-neutral fuels, novel
enzymes, and better vaccines.”
25 CRISPR truly offers a parade of research
advantages with clinical, commercial, and agricultural advantages. Who can
object to such a technology?
B. The Problem of Rapid Adoption
Biologists have adopted the CRISPR tool with remarkable speed and great
26 The problem with such a rapid pace of adoption in both public
and commercial laboratories is that the full range of ethical and safety
concerns have yet to be sorted out.
27 The CRISPR tool of gene editing
improves on the older tools such as the recombinant DNA technology
(rDNA), which made whole genomes readable.
28 CRISPR holds the promise
System, 8 NATURE PROTOCOL 2281 (2013).
23. The Nat’l Acads. of Scis. Eng’g & Med., Applications of Gene Editing Technology:
Human Germline Modification (George Church’s address at the International Summit on
Human Gene Editing, Dec. 1, 2015), https://vimeo.com/album/3703972/video/149188798.
24. See Debra J. H. Mathews et al.,
A Path through the Thicket, 527 NATURE 159, 160
25. Daniel M. Gerstein, How Genetic Editing Became a National Security Threat, BULL.
ATOMIC SCIENTISTS (Apr. 25 2016), http://thebulletin.org/how-genetic-editing-became-
26. See Ledford, supra note 1, at 21 (stating that CRISPR has led to “rapid progress”
within the research community and that in the past two years, several companies have formed
to develop CRISPR-based gene therapy).
27. See id. (explaining that the fast pace leaves little time for dealing with these concerns
28. See generally Amy Maxmen, Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle Up.,
WIRED (Aug., 2015), https://www.wired.com/2015/07/crispr-dna-editing-2/.