If cancer and climate change are our greatest challenges in the 21st Century, gene editing and nano technology may be the most promising solutions. As these technologies are taken up by pioneering biotechnology companies, and tested in the labs of premier research universities, they may also reshape science. Supported by new legislation, such as the Cures Act, and a recent surge of funding, including from tech giants, Sean Parker, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR-Cas9 are introducing questions about how new technologies should be tested — indeed, questions about the form of science itself.
My research follows the development of these emerging technologies during their early stages. Continuing inquiry by leading scholars of biotechnology, including Kaushik Sunder Rajan who argues that biotechnologies must be understood in the economic markets within which they emerge, my first step in this research is to document the economies that support the development of CRISPR and nano technologies. I am currently tracking the progress of private biotechnology companies pursuing emerging technologies, including three that recently held initial public offerings, and research universities that have received private donations to support CRISPR research programs.
I am also working with the Center to Advance Science in Policy and Regulation (CASPR) at UC Berkeley on a cross-disciplinary research project about developing pathways for regulation in: (1) drug, device and diagnostic development; (2) climate change mitigation and (3) nanoscale technology R&D. We hosted a conference at UC Berkeley in September to set a research agenda, and are actively pursuing funding to support future work.