Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-56f9d74cfd-mgjtl Total loading time: 0.264 Render date: 2022-06-25T09:15:27.633Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

6 - A Moral Choice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2021

Eben Kirksey
Affiliation:
Deakin University, Victoria
Get access

Summary

Critical ethical questions about the very first CRISPR clinical trial in the United States were being debated on the NIH campus the same week as my gene-editing course. During lunch and coffee breaks, I went to watch a committee of experts evaluate a proposal for a research project that aimed to cure cancer. Eleven distinguished scientists, doctors, and ethicists were seated around a large rectangular table as professional staffmembers in neckties and suits fiddled with AV equipment and took notes on laptops in the back of the room.

A handful of onlookers from biotech companies and government agencies sipped coffee from takeaway cups as Dr. Richard Whitley, the acting committee chairman, called the proceedings to order: “We have been at this now for forty years, and it is our responsibility to continually update the guidelines to make sure that they are contemporary with current procedures. Today is a landmark.” It was June 21, 2016, and the committee would decide if CRISPR should be ushered into the clinic.

Formed in 1975, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC, pronounced “rack”) had a venerable history. Early on, scientific experts addressed concerns about ecological, health, and safety issues related to all genetically engineered organisms. Over the years, the RAC's mission narrowed. Scrutiny of modified microbes, plants, and animals was no longer part of the committee's mandate. They began to focus on gene therapies in humans.

Gene therapy experiments began with live human patients in 1990, when a synthetic virus was designed to target a rare immunological disease. The therapy did not work, but the virus seemed safe enough. More than 4,000 people had their DNA modified in gene therapy experiments over the next decade. Viruses—derived from herpes, pox, and HIV—were used to infect patients’ cells with artificial genes designed by scientists. Some of the experiments went awry. Jesse Gelsinger, a relatively healthy eighteen-year-old with a rare genetic condition, died during a gene therapy experiment at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. After this accident, the RAC applied the brakes. In recent years, a trickle of new experiments had started to make it through the pipeline. If this CRISPR experiment was approved, the trickle could turn into a flood.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Mutant Project
Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans
, pp. 75 - 79
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

  • A Moral Choice
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.007
Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • A Moral Choice
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.007
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • A Moral Choice
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.007
Available formats
×