Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-56f9d74cfd-w6k7h Total loading time: 0.339 Render date: 2022-06-25T07:21:37.084Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

Prologue : The World On Notice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2021

Eben Kirksey
Affiliation:
Deakin University, Victoria
Get access

Summary

Surreal artwork in the hotel lobby—a gorilla peeking out of a peeled orange, smoking a cigarette; an astronaut riding a cyborg-giraffe—was the backdrop for bombshell news rocking the world. In November 2018 Hong Kong's Le Méridien Cyberport hotel became the epicenter of controversy about Jiankui He, a Chinese researcher who was staying there when a journalist revealed he had created the world's first “edited” babies. Select experts were gathering in the hotel for the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing—a meeting that had been called to deliberate about the future of the human species. As CNN deemed the experiment “monstrous,” as heated discussions took place in labs and living rooms around the globe, Dr. He sat uncomfortably on a couch in the lobby.

Jiankui He was trying to explain himself to Jennifer Doudna, the chemist at UC Berkeley who is one of the pioneers behind CRISPR, a new genetic engineering tool. Doudna had predicted that CRISPR would be used to direct the evolution of our species, writing, “We possess the ability to edit not only the DNA of every living human but also the DNA of future generations.” As He went through his laboratory protocol, describing how he had manipulated the genes of freshly fertilized human eggs with CRISPR, Doudna shook her head. She knew that this moment might be coming someday, but she imagined that it would be in the far future. Amidst the bustle of hotel guests, science fiction began to settle into the realm of established fact.

I was checking in to Le Méridien as the story broke, and first heard rumors about He's babies while chatting in the elevator with other summit delegates. We had come to Hong Kong to discuss the science, ethics, and governance of CRISPR and an assortment of lesser-known tools for tinkering with DNA. Struggling to overcome intense jet lag—fresh offplanes from Europe, the United States, and other parts of Asia—we listened to speculation in the hotel's hallways while swimming through reality, caught between waking and dreaming.

Opening the door to my hotel room, a luxury suite courtesy of the US National Academy of Sciences, I hunted for reliable sources of information online. I had been invited to speak on the research ethics panel, after Jiankui He, so I needed to play catch-up, fast.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Mutant Project
Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans
, pp. 1 - 14
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.

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.

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.

Available formats
×