Gene editing is no more a science fiction. The Nobel Prize for the last year (2020) in Chemistry was awarded to two women - Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, for the development of a method for genome editing. This book has Jennifer Doudna as the protagonist and many more interesting personalities who have contributed to the field of genetic engineering and the development of gene editing platform known as CRISPR.
The timing is important with the assault of Corona virus. Viruses can only live if they find a host. They cannot replicate on their own but once they enter a host cell, they gain control over it by entering its nucleus and begin to spread. Many bacteria have been found with resistance to virus, not just to Corona but all kinds of viruses. These bacteria had clustered patterns in their genes which offered immunity from viruses by not allowing them to replicate themselves. Researchers agreed to name this genetic pattern as ‘Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats’ or CRISPR in its short form.
This book in begins with exploring the origins of life, the works of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel. Then it moves on to James Watson who improved our understanding of structure of Genes and their functioning. Then comes in Jennifer Doudna who had read James Watson’s book ‘The Double Helix’ as a child and then went on to work with him as an adult. As the book progresses, it throws light on hundreds of scientists and researchers working across the world in the field of gene editing, sharing their knowledge and collaborating with each other. But it is Jennifer Doudna who takes it to the finish and wins the Nobel Prize.
This book is more biographical and includes discussions on science only to support the development of story and explain how one event led to another. Walter Isaacson who has authored many books including the best seller biography of Steve Jobs, is well-known to make his readers understand the intricacies and eccentricities involved in the personal lives of well-known public figures.
Gene editing is an evolving branch of science which would potentially change the field of medicines and bio-tech engineered plants. Apart from knowing the science behind it, it would be interesting to know the people behind it as well. And this book just helps with that.