As demonstrated by the Foldscope, the uber-affordable microscope developed by Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash, PhD — there is real fervor for bringing easy, do-it-yourself science to the masses. But what if that at-home science allows novices to dabble in some serious stuff, like splicing genes?
One Bay Area scientist has done just that: He's marketing a $130 gene-editing kit that could bring the popular technology CRISPR into kitchens, basements and garages nationwide.
This particular kit isn't particularly dangerous, according to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News:
The kit has limited applications. His altered bacteria and yeast, quite harmless, lead brief and fairly dull lives. They can't do much except change color, fragrance or live in inhospitable places. Then they die.
But two Stanford experts — infectious disease researcher David Relman, MD, and bioethicist Hank Greely, JD — agree it could place powerful technology in the hands of people who might not use it responsibly.
"I do not think that we want an unregulated, non-overseen community of freelance practitioners of this technology," Relman told the Mercury News.
Regulation, or control, might not be possible, though, Greely cautioned. "You've got guys with B.S. degrees, in a garage," he said in the article.
Kit developer Josiah Zayner doesn't have a garage. But one version of the kit has already sold out.