Money and deals are flowing into companies that promise to edit genes. Human, animal, plant, all kinds of DNA may be on the cutting board. And once the replacements are pasted in, the results could dramatically change our lives -- for better or for worse.
In the meantime, scientists and lawyers and venture capitalists are jockeying for position to see which companies will come out on top. The rest of us should pay attention; it's our world they are looking to remake.
This burgeoning industry is founded on CRISPR technology, which promises to enable the precise editing of genomes. CRISPR/Cas9 stands for "clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat" and an associated protein (not always mentioned). A brief video introduction from UC Berkeley's Innovative Genomics Initiative (IGI) gives an overview of the editing process. A webinar put on by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, featuring Harvard professors George Church and Feng Zhang, gives more detail.
The first prominent company intending to exploit this technology was Editas, which was founded by five of the leading scientists in the field,...