Human activists concerned over CRISPR-Cas9 while, UC & MIT fight over patent

When scientists at the University of California in Berkeley discovered a new way of editing human DNA, they had no idea that this discovery will bring serious troubles for them. Right now, the researchers are primarily worried about the fact that the technology created by them might be used for immoral or unethical purposes. Here, it must be mentioned that the new tech discovered by them is referred to as the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology.

CRISPR-Cas9 has showcased the significant potential of being a tool that can prevent inherited diseases; scientists have also found signs that indicate that the technology might act as a cure for serious illnesses like HIV and cancer. That’s not all; tests revealed that CRISPR-Cas9 might even be effective in increasing global food supply and quelling hunger.

However, this year in January CRISPR-Cas9 was used for a different purpose. A research group from China used this new gene editing tool for creating “designer baby” primates by editing their immune cell development, metabolism, and sex.


Then in April, another group of scientists in China used the technology for carrying out experiments using human embryos. These experiments were conducted for preventing a gene-induced blood disease. The results obtained during this study were mostly negative; while the scientists managed to edit a few embryos, other got mutated.

According to Jacob Corn of UC, Berkeley, such events should be treated as the wake-up call. He said that human traits tend to change naturally in due course, and this technology is about performing those changes faster than nature.

Corn and his team took part in a closed-door meeting last January and suggested that further discussion and assessment are required for gathering more knowledge about the risks and advantages gene editing comes with. They have also put forward a 4-point plan to be followed during future applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tech.

The four points in the plan are: discouraging the technology’s clinical application, creating forums to enable learning and discussion on the technology, holding a meeting with international experts for discussing all the issues concerning the technology, and promoting open research for establishing its usefulness.

For those who don’t know: there has been a dispute regarding the ownership of the patent of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tech.

The patent of this technology is currently owned by the MIT and the Harvard University. However, the US Patent & Trademark Office has been requested to award it to the University of California, Berkeley. This has resulted in a legal battle between UC and MIT; experts are saying that the fight over the CRISPR-Cas9 patent might take years to resolve.


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  • Scientists cannot dwell on ethics while doing their work. Nor are they more qualified than others to contribute to the ethics debate afterwards.

    • True, but they are as qualified, and those who create technologies (generally not scientists, but engineers) should be saturated in ethics and should be endowed with a deliberate intention above all else to improve the human and the biosphere condition.

  • Once the genie is out, no matter how many meetings are held on how to put it back into the bottle, it will not happen, ask Alfred Nobel……..

  • Science cannot operate with ethics. That being said, When Scientists ignore ethical boundaries horrible things can happen. Ethics and Science are opposites this is my personal belief. As technology advances and begins now to evolve. More and more members of these communities have come forward with their own hippocratic oaths or to do away with or refuse to follow such oaths and now People like Joseph Rotblat, John Sulston, Revill and Dando and David King all of whom are distinguished and accomplished in their respected fields but all have inserted their personal moral beliefs into how others should proceed or guidelines that should be followed and adhered to. I agree in part but only for Doctors and those who are tasked with using what they have learned to help or give care to heal. When the ICSU past president is shaking the hand of the pope and is the face of an organization that was founded to over see along with SCRES who is tasked to follow up on these instances. Then it’s not a surprise to hear that the country (China) where the past president is from was using this technology on human embryos, but under the cover of trying to alter or prevent a gene induced blood disease. Where MOSTLY all the results were negative and in some embryos there was mutation. Sounds like those researchers have thrown ethics in there place when it comes to discovery and the application of new technology. I would only assume that since China has the highest levels of CO2 being put into the air then maybe they are trying to eliminate the sickness and poison it is causing their people directly and ultimately the people on earth. But this should be a wake up call to others. If you are not prepared for what you may find or think it’s unethical to travel down that path then someone else will and we can only hope they share this knowledge with us and not use it against. This is a pivotal moment I believe we are lucky the western minded people discovered this first. But now as another person stated the genie is out to put the genie back in won’t happen. Maybe though we were smart enough to give them our our own version of the genie. I’m excited for what the future holds with this technology, as others should be to.

    • Your arguments could be improved by understanding the difference between technology and science. Unlike technology, science is what Kant would have called an “is”, … It exists independently from the actions of men … Men simply dicover it. Acting upon science creates technology, or putting it to use is the “ought” … Is the product of invention, and entirely dependent on mankind and defines its purpose and use. For example, Subnuclear astrophysics is the same science whether it is used for solar cells or for atom bombs, i.e. it of itself has no moral impetus, but they are different technologies because of the way the science is leveraged (its purpose) … Therein lies ethics and the pinings of morality.

      Do not fret though as this is an extremely common mistake even at the tallest of ivory towers. But it is an extremely important consideration with far reaching implications.

      Incidentally the phrase “that being said” is generally used to transition to a opposing argument, similar to “on the other hand”, “conversely”, and “in contrast”. It is a literary tool to suggest to the reader wisdom and comprehensiveness on the part of the writer.

  • If only a locking code could be placed into DNA when discoveries are made to keep those with devious minds and intentions, like say…the government, out.