of cheap, effective editing—it can “cut and alter the DNA of any species” at
most genomic sites with precision.
29 I have written about the risks of genetic
modification technologies before, and CRISPR presents some of the same
risk features of the rDNA controversy, as well as clear benefits for scientific
research and medical development as described above.
What are the environments in which such tools are valuable? CRISPR
promises the construction of new animals for research, improved bacterial
strains in dairy products, and reduction of disease-generating mutations in
31 As Jasanoff et al. write: “To many it appears all but certain
that so precise and powerful a technique will revolutionize the treatment of
genetically transmitted human disease, correcting defective genes within
diseased bodies, and potentially banishing genetic errors from the germ-line
by editing the DNA of human gametes and embryos.”
32 Biologists and health
care providers are excited.
33 If we can help those with traits for rare genetic
diseases, the pressure is enormous to move from the lab into the population
with such traits.
Evidence for the rapid rate of take-up by researchers in academia and
industry can be found in the increase in publications, patents, and funding.
Even stronger evidence is found in the remarkably rapid use of the
technology by startup companies such as Editas.
35 The field is hot, and its
rapid movement leaves risk unanalyzed and under regulated in many areas of
36 Universities want research grants for such research; new
biotechnologies are fostered; and another biological arms race begins, driven
by market and research benefits.
The rapid emergence of CRISPR has generated calls for a moratorium or
slowdown in some areas in which the technology is or may be used.37 When
29. Sheila Jasanoff et al., CRISPR Democracy: Gene Editing and the Need for Inclusive
Deliberation, 32 ISSUES IN SCI. & TECH. (2015) [hereinafter CRISPR Democracy].
30. See generally Furrow, supra note 2.
31. See Pennisi, supra note 14, at 833–34.
32. CRISPR Democracy, supra note 29.
33. See CRISPR Will be a Huge Story in 2017. Here Are 7 Things to Look For, SCIPOL
(Jan. 3, 2017), http://scipol.duke.edu/content/crispr-will-be-huge-story-2017-here-are-7-
things-look (asking scientists what they believe are the most exciting ways of changing the
world with CRISPR).
34. Ledford, supra note 1, at 23.
35. See Jordan Paradise, U.S. Regulatory Challenges for Gene Editing, 13 SCITECH LAW.
_gene_editing.html (“[Editas has a] $43 million capital investment to design clinical trials
based on the CRISPR and TALEN platforms.”).
36. See Ledford, supra note 1, at 20–21 (“[S]ome scientists are worried that the field’s
breakneck pace leaves little time for addressing the ethical and safety concerns such
experiments can raise.”).