Jennifer Doudna

In this interview as in past public comments, Jennifer Doudna opens the door to using the CRISPR platform she helped develop in the service of a hugely controversial enterprise: altering the genomes and traits of future children and subsequent generations. She does so under the banner of responsible science and policy. But as with similar comments by supporters of heritable genome manipulations, her responses shed little light on what criteria would constitute “responsible use,” how irresponsible uses could be avoided, and how this immensely consequential decision might be made in an open and democratically responsible way.

To be sure, Doudna notes that “the main challenge in embryo editing is not scientific … but rather ethical,” and raises important questions about the feasibility of consent by future generations, the difficulty of distinguishing between medical applications and enhancements, and the harm that eradicating genetic conditions might bring to people living with those conditions. But she gives no hint about how these challenges could be met. Tellingly, she fails to mention the broader social justice alarms about heritable genome editing: that the accumulation... see more