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Genetic engineering

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The Boston Globe

Prof. Kevin Esvelt writes for The Boston Globe about the need for transparency surrounding gene-editing research. “We should establish transparent, publicly accessible standards to help determine whether, when, and how research that could impact everyone should proceed,” Esvelt explains.

Forbes

A new center established at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research is aimed at accelerating the development of novel therapies and technologies, writes Katie Jennings for Forbes. The hope is that “we can identify common pathways, either a common molecular pathway that's a chokepoint for a therapy or a common group of neurons or neural systems,” says Prof. Robert DeSimone, director of the McGovern Institute.

The Boston Globe

Boston Globe reporter Felice Freyer writes about the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Center for Molecular Therapeutics in Neuroscience, which was established at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research thanks to a $28 million gift from philanthropist Lisa Yang and MIT alumnus Hock Tan ’75. “The center will develop tools to precisely target the malfunctioning genes and neurons underpinning brain disorders,” writes Freyer.

Time Magazine

TIME reporter Alice Park writes that in a Nature commentary, an international group of scientists has called for a temporary ban on studies using gene-editing on human embryos. “Our question is, how should nations make decisions about technologies like gene editing going forward?” says Prof. Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute and one of the authors of the commentary.

Associated Press

Associated Press reporter Malcom Ritter writes that an international team of scientists – including a number of MIT researchers – has called for a moratorium on making babies with genetically engineered DNA. “The moratorium would allow time for discussion of technical, scientific, societal and ethical issues that must be considered,” explains Ritter.

Financial Times

Financial Times reporter Hannah Kuchler writes that researchers from MIT and a number of other institutions have called for a moratorium on editing inheritable human genes. Kuchler writes that the researchers called for the establishment of “an international framework on the conditions in which such editing could be allowed.”

CNBC

MIT spin-off Gingko Bioworks was named to the CNBC Disruptor 50 List for using “genetic engineering to design and print new DNA for a variety of organisms…that can then be used for anything from killing antibiotic-resistant germs to producing artificial sweetener and cheaper perfume,” reports Tom Huddleston Jr. for CNBC.

Stat

In an article for STAT, Prof. Kevin Esvelt argues that non-profits should be the only entities allowed to develop and use new genome editing technologies. Esvelt writes that when it comes to controversial new technologies like gene drive, “keeping early applications in the nonprofit realm could help us make wiser decisions about whether, when, and how to move forward.”

CNN

CNN reporter Bronte Lord spotlights Prof. Kevin Esvelt’s proposal to introduce genetically engineered mice to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in an effort to stop the spread of Lyme disease. "We want to heritably immunize the local white-footed mice," Esvelt explains. "The idea is fewer infected ticks means fewer infected kids."

Vox

Prof. Kevin Esvelt speaks with Dylan Matthews of Vox about the potential for a CRISPR gene drive to eradicate malaria. Esvelt considers both the risks and rewards of this approach, noting that “the future of our civilization will primarily be determined by the technologies we develop and the wisdom with which we choose to deploy them or refrain.”

PBS NOVA

During this episode of NOVA Wonders, Professors Kristala Jones Prather and Kevin Esvelt discuss the future of genetic engineering. Speaking about the evolution of the biotech industry, Prather explains that, "the key observation that really fueled the entire biotech industry was recognizing that D.N.A. is really just a chemical, and the structure is what matters.”

Financial Times

Co-founded by Prof. Feng Zheng, Beam Therapeutics, which uses CRISPR to treat disease, has secured $87 million in initial funding, reports Clive Cookson for Financial Times. Beam is the first company to use base editing, which changes the chemical “letters” of genetic code without cutting it, similar to “moving from scissors-and-paste to editing text with a sharp pencil,” explains Cookson. 

CommonHealth (WBUR)

WBUR's Carey Goldberg profiles Prof. Feng Zhang, a “sunny science superstar” whose discoveries include major advances in optogenetics and CRISPR. "Feng is a one-in-a-generation scientist who sees connections that the rest of us have overlooked," says Prof. Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

The Atlantic

Co-founded by three alumni and a former professor, startup Ginkgo Bioworks uses genetic engineering to create an array of consumer and corporate products – all relying on socially conscious GMOs. The company, which is now partnering with Bayer, is “trying to reset the conversation around biotechnology: by foregrounding the benefits to consumers and advocating for transparency,” writes Sarah Zhang for The Atlantic.

Scientific American

Prof. Kevin Esvelt speaks with Scientific American reporter Elie Dolgin about his work applying genetic engineering to eradicate diseases like malaria. Esvelt explains that one day researchers could potentially, “engineer an organism that would confer disease resistance to an entire species. Ideally, we’d want to start small and local, see how well it works, and only then scale up if it’s warranted.”