Gene drive technology is powerful and slightly frightening. But the coronavirus pandemic reminds us that we want to have multiple weapons in the public health arsenal, should we be confronted with another life-threatening microbe.
New genetic technology can either come to fruition and have a positive impact on our lives, or be driven into the ground. The difference depends on whether the people making decisions understand the science and can accurately and properly weigh the risks and benefits.
Gene drives change the way that certain genes (and therefore traits) are inherited, or passed down through generations. Using CRISPR gene editing technology, the gene drives have the ability to cut and paste a desired gene into each organism, making a trait present in an entire population of organisms.
Roughly 200 million people contract the malarial parasite annually, and in 2013 malaria was the cause of 500,000 deaths worldwide. According to a recent study, a new genetic engineering technique is showing great promise in eliminating the mosquitos that carry the deadly disease.