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Bioterrorism And Gene Editing: Can Crispr Tool Be Used As Biological Weapon In War?

by Himanshu GoenkaIB Times
December 14th, 2016

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper stands at a podium as a speaker, with the Office of Director of National Intelligence symbol in the background.

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Crispr is a tool that allows for genes to be edited, and has great potential in the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including some for which there is currently no known cure. It rose to prominence in 2015, when it was chosen as the breakthrough technology of the year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and became even better known in 2016 when scientists behind it were strong contenders for the Nobel Prize (which it finally didnít win) and also appeared in Time magazineís readersí poll for the Person of the Year title.

Even as a legal battle is currently underway for the patent rights to Crispr (its Cas9 variant, to be specific), the technology is far from perfect right now ó scientists are still working on making it more precise and the first human test involving a gene modified using Crispr took place only in October. And yet, it has made it to the list put together by U.S. intelligence agencies on national security threats.

However, in a somewhat surprising announcement in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper included genome editing in a list of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation while presenting the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community report to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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