Economic issues to consider for gene drives

P. D. Mitchell, Z. Brown and N. McRoberts,  Journal of Responsible Innovation,  5:S180-S202. 2018.

We examine four economic issues regarding gene drive applications made possible by gene editing technologies. First, whether gene drives are self-sustaining or self-limiting will largely determine which types of organizations have incentives to develop and deploy gene drives and greatly influence their governance and regulation. Social factors will also play key roles, particularly public perceptions, with these perceptions co-determined with regulation and governance. Second, gene drive applications will generate unintended negative social impacts that will partially offset benefits. Third, economic surplus, the traditional measure of economic benefits, incompletely captures the welfare impacts of gene drive applications. Fourth, gene drives imply dynamic nonlinearities that make identifying economic equilibria and general policy recommendations challenging. The potentially substantial benefits, coupled with the technical, social, and economic uncertainties surrounding gene drives, suggest that a responsible course of action is to move forward while maintaining regulatory flexibility and conducting research to resolve key uncertainties.