I Prefer My Bacon Crispy: Why I Don’t Think CRISPR is Really That Big of a Deal


Author: 
Sultan Meghji

With all the recent news around CRISPR my reaction is “meh” (coincidentally, the same reaction I’m having to the current US presidential election noise). We are a wee bit early for both.

Is Jurassic Park – and now Jurassic World real? No.

“Cutting and pasting” of genetic material is a well-used mechanism. It replaced the (ahem) ever so accurate and useful “shoot a bb gun into a petri dish” model a while back. Restriction enzymes have been out there for well over 20 years. The focus on T cells in the blood streams and the usage of electroporation is interesting. Of course, not blowing up the cells would be useful, and there is a non-zero chance of that happening currently.

The net result would be the ability to perform genetic dialysis of the bloodstream to counter disease or inherited traits (and gene therapy).

Let’s push the hype meter down a few notches.

This isn’t a massive leap that will be available in market next week. Like most technologies in this space, you are looking at 10+ years of research validation prior to market entrance. Let’s also remember that the first market entrance will be focused on people deep in sickness, where their wallets will pay anything to ward off death.

My hypothesis is that the first commercial (or end person usable nature) would be in places where modification of existing blood stream traits would be useful – cancer, certainly. Other possibilities are other blood related indications such as diabetes, heart disease, and more. Surely some company will raise $10m and more designing a genetic dialysis, zero-effort weight loss, or hair loss reversal pill. Cialis or Viagra 2.0 is an equal possibility.

The recently announced $120m fund raised by Editas Medicine was a private sector step forward outside of the public view. It will be five or more years before anything actionable comes out of it. Then, of course, the company will face what could be massive and uncharted regulatory issues.

There’s a larger trend here that is worth noting: just because we’ve added a tool to the toolbox doesn’t mean that it is available or useful. Just because we have a better hammer doesn’t mean we can build a flying car.

And this is me: the futurist, idealist, and massive proponent of all things genetic talking!

Where is Oxford Nanopore by the way?

Sultan Meghji is the founder and Managing Partner of Virtova.  This post was orignially published at www.sultanmeghji.org.



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