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The Lede Gene Editing Discussion at CRISPRcon

The Lede, Tuesday, June 5, 2018
By David Royse

The LEDE

One of the most futuristic – and important – meetings of the scientific minds is going on right now in Boston. It’s CRISPRcon – where researchers, ethicists and others are having, what the conference’s website grandly proclaims are “conversations on science, society, and the future of gene editing.”

It’s not overly dramatic to say that this is one of the biggest issues facing the human species, really. What are we going to do with our newly learned ability to edit our own human software code?

“The scientific community has handed the world an incredible tool: the ability to make precise edits to the DNA in living cells,” the conference website says. “These technologies could allow us to transform our food, health and ecological systems. They also raise important questions about risks, benefits, ethics, equity and more.”

The event is put on by MIT and Harvard and started yesterday, and is wrapping up this afternoon.

A couple highlights from some of the (pretty scant) press coverage.

“Designer babies” are probably something we won’t have to worry about for decades. Still – that’s being discussed in multiple contexts, including where is the line between fixing diseases in yet-to-be-born babies so they don’t have them, and “improving” on “ordinary yet-to-be-born babies?”

In other words, what is normal? Is a child who is abnormally small, or abnormally big, in need of a fix? And what’s the range of normal?

An interesting thought in the story from the Boston Globe’s STAT: 
“People say it’s wrong to modify the genome of a baby because they can’t consent to it,” said Anna Everette of the New York Academy of Sciences. “But the counterpoint is that they didn’t consent to being conceived.”

While people will get most of what little attention this conference will receive (I could find no more than just a couple articles about this gathering – it’s getting extremely little coverage for such an important event), animals will be discussed, too. A pork producer, for example, is at the conference, making it known how important gene editing is in the meat industry.

AgDaily has an interesting story about how gene editing has given farmers for the first time ever an effective cure for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

“As a farmer and pork producer, I believe we should openly and transparently communicate the potential benefits and responsible use of gene editing,” Minnesota farmer Randy Spronk says in the AgDaily piece. “Gene editing will give us, as farmers, more options in how we produce pork in a way that is responsible for people, pigs, and the planet.”

Spronk participated today in the CRISPRcon closing panel, “Infinity and Beyond? Exploring and Determining Limits for Gene Editing.” Other panelists were Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation; George Church, Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School, and Rev. Kevin Fitzgerald, Georgetown University.

The FOLLOW

DNA Donor
Want to help researchers understand and fight disease? Your genetic information could be useful to them. “Biobrokers” want to help you sell, or rent, your DNA to disease researchers. San Diego Union Tribune

RELATED (that describes this story – and people in the Ancestry database)
Who is the Google offshoot that has access to the database tracking all that DNA Ancestry.com collects? The story from McClatchy

OTHER EMERGING INDUSTRIES

Defense Tech
Using AI to detect missile attacks. From Reuters

BIZ NEWS

APPLE WATCH 

Everything Apple announced at WWDC from Wired

And, Safari is the anti-Facebook browser. Also from Wired

Also, in case you didn’t notice this in various Apple stories – the company is closing in on a trillion dollars in value. Whoa.

NOTES FROM THE AGE OF DISRUPTION: 

Twitter
Is now in the S&P 500, and saw its stock surge on the news. Reuters

Lime
The scooter company appears to be about to get a big infusion of investment cash from GV. Axios

Grab
The Singapore based ridehailing company that bought Uber’s Southeast Asia business has launched an investment unit to back other startups in the sector in other countries. TechCrunch

Bridge Connector
The electronic medical records platform company is raising seed capital from Florida and plans an expansion. South Florida Business Journal.

Cannabis Conference Videos

In case you missed it, we had a couple pretty interesting videos from the Cannabis World Congress and Expo last week. Click here to see Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth, give the keynote address. And Whoopi Goldberg, the actress, who now has a CBD company, showed up and talked about how she got involved in the industry.

Thanks for reading!

 

About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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