HKS Authors

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Not since the early, heady days of recombinant DNA (rDNA) has a technique of molecular biology so gripped the scientific imagination as the CRISPR-Cas9 method of gene editing. Its promises are similar to those of rDNA, which radically transformed the economic and social practices of biotechnology in the mid-1970s. Ivory tower rDNA science morphed into a multibillion dollar technological enterprise built on individual entrepreneurship, venture capital, start-ups, and wide-ranging university-industry collaborations. But gene editing seems even more immediate and exciting in its promises. If rDNA techniques rewrote the book of life, making entire genomes readable, then CRISPR applies an editorial eye to the resulting book, searching for typos and other infelicities that mar the basic text. Gene editing shows many signs of being cheaper, faster, more accurate, and more widely applicable than older rDNA techniques because of its ability to cut and alter the DNA of any species at almost any genomic site with ease and precision.


Hurlbut, J. Benjamin, Krishanu Saha, and Sheila Jasanoff. "CRISPR Democracy: Gene Editing and the Need for Inclusive Deliberation." Issues in Science & Technology. October 2015.