CRISPR-Cas changing biology?

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Eugene V. Koonin argues that fundamental research of CRISPR-Cas mechanisms has (among other things) illuminated “fundamental principles of genome manipulation.” Koonin's discussion provides important philosophical insights for how we should understand the significance of CRISPR-Cas systems. Yet the analysis he provides is only part of a larger story. There is also a human element to the CRISPR-Cas story that concerns its development as a technology. Accounting for this part of CRISPR's history reveals that the story Koonin provides requires greater nuance. I'll show how CRISPR-Cas technologies are not “natural” genome editing systems, but (in part) artifacts of human ingenuity. Furthermore, I'll argue that the story of CRISPR-Cas is not “primarily about research into fundamental biological mechanisms”, but is instead about the intertwining of applied and fundamental research programs.

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John Templeton Foundation.

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Correspondence to Janella Baxter.

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Baxter, J. CRISPR-Cas changing biology?. Biol Philos 34, 15 (2019).

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  • CRISPR-Cas systems
  • Genome editing
  • Biological technology
  • Applied research