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Our publications keep professionals informed on the most important developments and issues in health security and biosecurity.

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CRISPR Cautions: Biosecurity Implications of Gene Editing

Rachel M. West and Gigi Kwik Gronvall
Date posted:
February 18, 2020
Publication type:

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 2020;63(1):73-92

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CRISPR, a powerful gene-editing technology, is revolutionizing the life sciences and medical research. The technology has also become democratized. Costs to use CRISPR are low and decreasing, kits are available to make the use of CRISPR straightforward, and there is a rapidly growing scientific literature describing CRISPR methodologies and novel applications. However, like other powerful advances in the life sciences, CRISPR raises biosecurity concerns: it could be misused for harm, and it lowers technical barriers to biological weapons development. This essay describes the history and dissemination of CRISPR as genome-editing techniques have become widespread, outlines potential biosecurity concerns, and recommends actions governments and scientists may take to reduce biosecurity risks. While it is not possible to eliminate biosecurity risks from the misuse of biotechnologies, including CRISPR, steps can be taken to increase security while allowing this powerful technology to remain widely available for beneficent purposes.



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