APO PERSPECTIVE @SXSW ISSUE 1 - APO PERSPECTIVE @SXSW 2017 - Page 9

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An additional example is using the tech to further create new gene drives, which entails driving

a trait through a population very quickly. Doudna explained that it was already being deployed

in the lab setting to make changes to vectors or insects that carry diseases; it has been used

to make malaria-proof mosquitoes. A further example is modifying animals, such as pigs,

to support human organ transplant.

There was much discussion, and many questions, about the use of gene editing in human embryos, which has attracted a lot of attention in the international media. It was also proposed that the use of gene editing could be used to change cancerous cells to prevent their

proliferation and subsequently ameliorate the growth of the cancer tissue.

Duodna encourages public discussion on this technology that will give us awesome potential

to profoundly impact our future. ‘This technology, in principle, makes us think deeply about what

it means to be human, what we value and what we deem to be acceptable’.

Overall, Doudna noted how the development of this technology has been a very collaborative effort between professors, academic institutions, regulators and students.

The technology is likely to profoundly change the way we interact with our environment.

She stressed the need for scientists to work with ethicists and philosophers to engage

in ways that have real impact on society. Her fear is ‘getting ahead of the technology -

an overextension which would negatively impact public perception’.

This was an incredibly thought-provoking session that brought home the gravitas of technology’s impact not only on improving health and the human condition, but on what it means to be human.