Kevin Esvelt argues that the tremendous power of CRISPR can only be contained if scientists are open about their research.
More often than not, scientists keep their plans to themselves, only unveiling the details of their research once their results are in and their publications are accepted by an academic journal. “Virtually all of science is done in secret before the moment of publication,” says Esvelt. “This is an insane way of setting up your scientific system. No one in their right mind would set it up this way.”
“Even beginning to do the work in the lab means you’re making a decision that could affect people out of a lab,” he says. “For gene drive, the closed-door model is morally unacceptable. You don’t have the right to go into your lab and build something that is ineluctably designed to affect entire ecosystems. If it escapes into the wild, it would be expected to spread and affect people’s lives in unknown ways. Doing that in secret denies people a voice.”