New Books in Science

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episode 32: Eben Kirksey, "The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans" (St. Martin's Press, 2020)


In The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans (St. Martin's Press, 2020), anthropologist Eben Kirksey visits the frontiers of genetics, medicine, and technology to ask: Whose values are guiding gene editing experiments? And what does this new era of scientific inquiry mean for the future of the human species?

At a conference in Hong Kong in November 2018, Dr. He Jiankui announced that he had created the first genetically modified babies—twin girls named Lulu and Nana—sending shockwaves around the world. A year later, a Chinese court sentenced Dr. He to three years in prison for “illegal medical practice.”

As scientists elsewhere start to catch up with China’s vast genetic research program, gene editing is fueling an innovation economy that threatens to widen racial and economic inequality. Fundamental questions about science, health, and social justice are at stake: Who gets access to gene editing technologies? As countries loosen regulations around the globe, from the U.S. to Indonesia, can we shape research agendas to promote an ethical and fair society?

Eben Kirksey takes us on a groundbreaking journey to meet the key scientists, lobbyists, and entrepreneurs who are bringing cutting-edge genetic engineering tools like CRISPR to your local clinic. He also ventures beyond the scientific echo chamber, talking to disabled scholars, doctors, hackers, chronically-ill patients, and activists who have alternative visions of a genetically modified future for humanity.

The Mutant Project empowers us to ask the right questions, uncover the truth, and navigate this brave new world.

Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her at galina.limorenko@epfl.ch.

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 2020-12-23  1h1m