CRISPR and the splice to survive: New gene-editing technology could be used to save species from extinction—or to eliminate them.

E. Kolbert,  New Yorker,  2021.

The Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, in the city of Geelong, is one of the most advanced high-containment laboratories in the world. It sits behind two sets of gates, the second of which is intended to foil truck bombers, and its poured-concrete walls are thick enough, I was told, to withstand a plane crash. There are five hundred and twenty air-lock doors at the facility and four levels of security. “It’s where you’d want to be in the zombie apocalypse,” a staff member told me. Until recently, the center was known as the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, and at the highest biosecurity level—BSL-4—there are vials of some of the nastiest animal-borne pathogens on the planet, including Ebola. (The laboratory gets a shout-out in the movie “Contagion.”) Staff members who work in BSL-4 units can’t wear their own clothes into the lab and have to shower for at least three minutes before heading home. The animals at the facility, for their part, can’t leave at all. “Their only way out is through the incinerator” is how one employee put it to me. About a year ago, not long before the pandemic began, I paid a visit to the center, which is an hour southwest of Melbourne. The draw was an experiment on a species of giant toad known familiarly as the cane toad. The toad was introduced to Australia as an agent of pest control, but it promptly got out of control itself, producing an ecological disaster. Researchers at the A.C.D.P. were hoping to put the toad back in the bottle, as it were, using crispr.

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New Weapons in the Toad Toolkit: A Review of Methods to Control and Mitigate the Biodiversity Impacts of Invasive Cane Toads (Rhinella Marina)
The promise and peril of CRISPR gene drives
Evolutionary dynamics of CRISPR gene drives
Conservation pest control with new technologies: public perceptions
Core commitments for field trials of gene drive organisms