Walter Isaacson: The Science and Business of CRISPR
Play • 26 min

Throughout nearly the entirety of human history, we have accepted a simple truth: A person’s genetic makeup is beyond one’s choice. Until now.

In 2020, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for the development of CRISPR, a method for genome editing. CRISPR may change everything -- and land us in a world previously imaginable only in science fiction.

CRISPR can be wonderful and incredible. It may eliminate a child’s susceptibility to a genetic condition, such as cleft lip or cystic fibrosis or devastating disease. Imagine that. However, it also makes it possible to choose a child’s height or hair color. With these and other possibilities, the moral and ethical implications are important and immense.

The race to discover CRISPR was one of the great science tales of the 21st century, a cross-continent battle of discovery and speed. So how did CRISPR arrive? And more importantly, where might it take us?

Walter Isaacson is one to tell that story -- a professor of history at Tulane, he has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He has written numerous No. 1 best-selling books, including on Leonardo DaVinci, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Ben Franklin, each one of the great creators of their time, who transformed not only their fields, but also the way humans connect -- offering new ways to think about and engage in meaningful human interaction.

Isaacson’s latest book is The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. It’s part mystery, part science, part personal, and completely compelling. Isaacson details the discovery of the CRISPR method and tells the story of the groundbreaking, female scientists who revolutionized the world.

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