CRISPR-CAS9 and the genetic self-modification

Josiah Zayner image: personal archive of Josiah Zayner

Public debate held in 2018 at the Red House: centre for culture and debate as part of their “Open University” program. Participants in the debate are prof. Georgi Miloshev, assoc. prof. Milena Georgieva, Rene Beekman and Nevena Ivanova.

The trigger for the debate is the first experiment with human gene modification, which happened not in a hospital or a university lab, but at a conference in San Francisco in October 2017, during which Josiah Zayner, ex-biochemist at NASA and currently an advocate of open science, injected himself with modified DNA. The debate discusses the technical aspects of this experiment – what does it mean to modify genes with CRISPR, what are the risks, and whether CRISPR is a technology mature enough for editing human genome. The debate also poses broader philosophical and ethical questions, related to the potential design of human nature. Should biotechnologies become accessible to everyone or should they be centrally regulated? What does it mean to be a human in the era of CRISPR? Whom our bodies and lives belong to? Do we have the right to design ourselves and are there any boundaries, which we must not surpass? Would it be possible through self-modification to prepare for the coming drastic changes in our environment?