The Mutant Project

Author: Eben Kirksey

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: November 10, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Interesting history on gene mutation and what the path forward looks like for the future.

In November 2018, Dr. He Jiankui shocked the world when he announced the first genetically edited babies, twins to be exact.  He further shocked everyone when he announced there was another pregnancy.  With great power comes great responsibility and the discussion has shifted from when will it happen to how do we oversee the morality of this ability.  China has long dominated genetic research by recruiting top talent to the country to make breakthroughs before other countries.  But when it becomes available wide stream, who will decide who gets access?  These are just some of the questions that plague the future of this field.

Eben Kirksey takes readers on a bumpy ride as he kicks off his book with the unveiling of the genetically modified twins, Lulu and Nana.  However, this probably did not occur the way that readers think.  It was planned to be documented in a research journal, but another researcher got wind of it and leaked it out, which caused prerecorded YouTube videos to be released to the public, therefore causing all kids of chaos at this genetic convention.  It’s a mess to be sure.

I really enjoyed the history portion of this book and how we got to where we are today.  Kirksey did a great job explaining why China is further along in this field than the United States.  I also enjoyed getting to understand the background story of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, commonly known as CRISPR, which is the backbone of this book.  Much of the book focuses on finding a cure for HIV through genetic modification, which is where much of the current research is focused.  It is a higher-level book, so just reading for enjoyment likely won’t be what keeps readers engrossed.

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