Professor Matthew Cobb
Brave New World? The CRISPR revolution in gene editing
A new genetic technology called CRISPR has taken medical and biological research by storm, as it allows scientists to change the DNA code of any organism precisely, quickly and cheaply. Previously impractical genetic manipulations are now doable in any species, including humans. The long-running ethical debate about human germline gene therapy has now become incredibly pressing – the world’s first CRISPR baby will be born in the next few years. Combining CRISPR with a genetic mechanism called gene drive makes it possible to spread lethal genes through wild populations of pest animals and plants – such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes, invasive cane toads in Australia or weeds. What could possibly go wrong? Matthew Cobb will describe the excitement about this revolution in science, as well as highlighting the need for the widest possible debate about potential human and ecological applications of this new technology.
Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, where he studies the sense of smell in maggots. He is the author of Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code (2015) and in February presented a BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘Editing Life’ about CRISPR and its ethical implications.