Case Study on CRISPR-based gene drives

Synthetic gene drives based on the CRISPR-cas9 genetic engineering method could be used to spread artificially modified genes through wild populations faster. The main promise of this technology is that it spreads itself: the gene drive is inherited by each next generation of offspring. This could make it possible to enhance, suppress or perhaps even eliminate a population. So far, CRISPR-cas9 based gene drives research has been limited to the lab, and has focused mainly on mosquito species that transmit malaria.

The precautionary principle is relevant to this case because the release of gene drives into the environment also gives rise to potential systemic risks. At the same time, experience with current methods of risk assessment offers little knowledge about how to assess the risks associated with gene drives. The past years have therefore witnessed a heated debate around how to govern a technology designed to actively spread itself in nature.



In this video, Dr. Rosanne Edelenbosch, researcher at the Rathenau Institute, gives a short introduction into the many uncertainties and complexities in the governance of gene drives. Is it possible to develop safe gene drives?

Partner: Rathenau Institute


Dr. Rosanne Edelenbosch, researcher, Rathenau Institute

Dr. ir. Petra Verhoef, coordinator, Rathenau Institute

Tijs Sikma, researcher, Rathenau Institute


Video recording: Dr. Rosanne Edelenbosch (Rathenau Institute)

Animation: Lena Aebli (Ecologic Institute)

Produced by Ecologic Institute 2020,

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