A bold proposal and a cautious report

Let’s imagine a hundred or more citizens from all over the globe, selected to partecipate in a giant focus group aiming to represent world views. It would be an unprecedented social experiment, that’s for sure, but the call is worth considering. The bold proposal comes from a group of social scientists and a few geneticists (George Church included) writing today in Science. Fascinating as it is, this kind of assembly is probably easier said than done. However, the main problem, in my opinion, comes next: what should experts and politicians do with the assembly’s deliberations?

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CRISPR & society, the dialogue resumes

CRISPRcon returns with a series of discussions exploring gene editing’s role in COVID-19 testing and treatment, racial disparities, strategies to address climate change, and more. The panel on gene editing and journalism opens the event, that is free and 100% virtual, on Sept 1. Speakers: Tamar Haspel (Washington Post Columnist), Antonio Regalado (Senior Editor for Biomedicine, MIT Technology Review), Elliot Kirschner (Executive Producer, Human Nature and the Wonder Collaborative). Moderator: Ting Wu (Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School).

Unnatural selection, don’t stop at episode 1

I binge-watched Unnatural Selection, as many CRISPR enthusiasts have done. My review in a few words: the Netflix miniseries is a patchwork of bad and good. On the minus side, too many biohackers and too little real science. On the plus side, some interesting reporting on social issues, such as public engagement of local communities and the challenge of patient access to novel therapies. To sum up: episode 1 on biohacking is the worst, episode 3 on gene drives is the best. So my advice is: don’t give up at the first disappointing scenes. You might want to, but do not stop.

CRISPR babies, not so breaking news?

nyt front page news

Never at the top of front pages (Nyt, 27 Nov. 2018)

Twenty days after the announcement, many questions remain. The one certainty seems to be that the first  CRISPR babies are less breaking news than expected.

They will be in front pages again, probably, if and when the scientific paper gets published, if and when the baby-editor He Jiankui resurfaces, if and when the first photos of Lulu and Nana are circulated. But if the coverage of Dolly the sheep is considered in comparison, there’s no match. Why?

The media world has changed dramatically in the meantime, CRISPR is still unknown to many, China is perceived as a Wild East where anything can happen. But a sheep is always a sheep, and babies are babies. We should care about the first edited kids more than that. Maybe people are less troubled by human genome editing than most bioethicists. Perhaps the media have had enough of Gattaca, Frankenstein, and the likes. Did we cry wolf too often yesterday to get people interested today?