... lively and enthralling ... Benefiting from his presence at some of the key moments in gene-editing history, and armed with humor and an enthusiastic writing style, Davies provides a compelling account of CRISPR’s discovery and the shenanigans accompanying its meteoric ascendance.
I can’t say what it would have been like to read Editing Humanity back in July 2019. But reading it now—at a time when the coronavirus is killing nearly a thousand Americans every day—is a disorienting experience ... Davies recounts the history of Crispr in detailed yet breezy prose ... Davies, the author or co-author of four previous books and the executive editor of The Crispr Journal, digs deeper into this same history with a journalist’s relish ... A Chinese scientist named He Jiankui had edited the DNA of human embryos. He had them implanted in women’s bodies, and nine months later the first Crispr babies were born. Davies offers a deeply researched look at how He managed this dubious feat ... But Davies doesn’t limit the blame to He. The Chinese government enabled He with lavish support and surely must have known what he was up to.
... both a historical record and a map, inviting readers to learn from the past to navigate the present. It is, however, only part of the CRISPR story: Davies leaves many thorny ethical issues uncharted ... Davies’s telling of this disturbing saga is gripping, even for someone like me who followed it as it happened ... His unearthing of government and institutional involvement in these experiments left me with an eerie feeling of history on repeat ... Davies offers adroit descriptions of its potential to cure conditions from sickle-cell disease to cystic fibrosis. He delves into how CRISPR could be used to create tastier tomatoes, hardier oranges and hornless cattle, although he could have more deeply explored how it might transform world food-supply chains ... Davies makes a complicated technology clear, succinct and engaging. Yet he fails to give equal attention to its ecological, social, political and ethical ramifications ... Davies also doesn’t fully address the inadequacies of regulatory agencies or intergovernmental bodies ... I was relieved to see that the book gives contemporary female scientists the leading roles they deserve. But I was troubled by an insensitive remark suggesting that Chinese scientists tend not to be affable, and (given continuing protests over racialized police brutality) by a page-long metaphor likening bacterial immune defences to police surveillance ... Editing Humanity, one of several popular books on CRISPR just published or in the pipeline, clearly charts the terrain of this new world. But like any map, it can’t tell us how to get from A to B.