Harnessing gene drive

Min, JS, Andrea L.; Najjar, Devora; Esvelt, Kevin M.,  Journal of Responsible Innovation,  5:S40-S65. 2018.

When scientists alter the genome of an organism, we typically reduce its ability to reproduce in the wild. This limitation has prevented researchers from rendering wild insects unable to spread disease, programing pests to ignore our crops, using genetics to precisely remove environmentally damaging invasive species, and much more. Gene drive occurs when a vertically transmitted genetic element reliably spreads through a population over generations despite providing no reproductive advantage to each host organism. Until recently, scientific efforts to take advantage of this natural phenomenon achieved only limited success. The advent of CRISPR genome editing has dramatically accelerated efforts to harness gene drive. Small groups of scientists may now be capable of unilaterally altering entire wild populations, and through them, the shared environment. Determining whether, when, and how to develop gene drive interventions responsibly will be a defining challenge of our time. Here we describe capabilities, safeguards, applications, and opportunities relevant to gene drive technologies.