I’ve got some big news coming out of the biotechnology space today. And we have a follow-up act to the CRISPR (genetically edited) babies saga that began with Dr. He Jiankui in China.
But first, I feel that it’s important to provide an unbiased analysis concerning the issue of state surveillance once again.
Yesterday, I lambasted China’s border police for appropriating foreigners’ phones, downloading personal information, and installing tracking software. But China isn’t the only culprit. Today, I have to shed some light on surveillance operations right here in the U.S.
State surveillance isn’t limited to China…
It just came out that FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are working with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to scan driver’s license images for their facial recognition system.
They have scanned millions of innocent Americans’ faces without consent and without approval from any court. Again, these are innocent people who are not suspected of any crime.
This is a terrible violation of individual rights. Any such requests should require either consent or due process of law.
What’s more, using images from the DMV database leads to bad matches. That’s partly because it’s a 2D image… and partly because the image is likely to be outdated.
In fact, the numbers show that the matches are only 86% accurate. That comes from the FBI itself.
In other words, for every 1,000 people targeted, 140 of them have been falsely identified.
That’s troubling. How many innocent people are being investigated because their driver’s license image popped up as a possible match to a criminal?
Sadly, state surveillance is widespread in the United States… It’s not just happening in China. In fact, it’s occurring all over the developed world. Britain, for example, now has one surveillance camera for every 11 citizens.
As I said yesterday, this is taking simple technology and using it in an oppressive way. It is critical that society – in all countries – resist this kind of abuse of technology. Otherwise, we’ll wake up in 20 years and find ourselves in a world remarkably similar to George Orwell’s 1984. For those who haven’t done so already, this is a must-read book.
The technology that will find a cure for HIV…
Moving on to a positive topic… A team of scientists at Temple University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center just used CRISPR to eliminate HIV in mice.
Remember, CRISPR technology is like software programming for DNA. Basically, CRISPR allows scientists to “edit” a genetic mutation in DNA and replace it with a “healthy” or “correct” version of itself without the mutation.
This is an incredible development. HIV is such a complex virus that the most advanced drugs have only been able to suppress it… not cure it.
Well, CRISPR just did the (seemingly) impossible. It eradicated HIV entirely in infected mice.
Of course, that’s a long way from curing HIV in humans… But it’s a great start.
And this goes to show how powerful the CRISPR platform is. Ultimately, CRISPR will eliminate all human disease that comes from genetic mutations. And we are still in the early stages…
The first CRISPR human trial just started this year. That therapy targets rare blood diseases.
And another CRISPR human trial is set to start later this year. It will target a form of blindness. That’s right – CRISPR will be used to cure blindness in humans.
I’ve been writing about CRISPR technology since 2015… And it’s now hitting an inflection point… the point at which we are beginning to see positive results from human trials. We will keep you posted on all major CRISPR breakthroughs going forward.
By the way, as I mentioned yesterday, there are many early-stage companies doing amazing work in the field of genomics and genetic editing. Because these are small start-ups, most investors don’t have access to them.
But I have spent the last five years working on a system that makes investing in early-stage companies… and massive gains… available to all investors – not just high-net-worth individuals.
If you are interested, I’m hosting a free investor seminar on July 24 at 8 p.m. ET with all the details. You’ll certainly want to be there. Get all the details and save your spot right here.
More CRISPR babies are coming…
We talked about Chinese scientist Dr. He Jiankui last month. Dr. He used CRISPR to edit the embryos of twin babies… and later a third child by different parents. This is called germline editing.
Dr. He edited the embryos to make the children immune to HIV. But he did this before a single CRISPR therapy had been through clinical trials. In other words, he ignored any potential risks that are yet to be discovered and corrected.
Of course, Dr. He was highly criticized by the international scientific community… and rightly so. The community took the position that it is irresponsible to edit human embryos at this early stage. CRISPR needs to go through clinical trials before we even talk about germline editing.
Yet, the word is out that a Russian biologist, Denis Rebrikov, plans to edit five more human embryos… this time for deafness. And he’s found five deaf couples who are having children and have agreed to the edits.
Because both parents in each couple have a particular genetic mutation that causes deafness, it’s a genetic certainty that their children will also be deaf as well. The couples see CRISPR as their children’s only hope to hear.
Now, Rebrikov believes this mutation can be edited safely and successfully. And if he’s successful – if the children are born healthy and normal – it will be an extraordinary event.
Still, moving forward is irresponsible because the treatment is untested. We don’t know if it will work… if it will cause bad side effects… or if it will be harmful to the children.
And the international community has staunchly voiced its opposition. But it has also admitted that there’s nothing it can do to stop Rebrikov, or anyone else, from using CRISPR.
That admission highlights the awkward state we find ourselves in with this technology.
Here we have this powerful tool that can cure human disease… And everyone who understands the science can use it. There are almost no barriers to entry, as it is very inexpensive to use.
All the research has been published… So anyone can read about CRISPR and apply it. But there’s no guarantee people will apply it well… without causing harm.
It’s clear that CRISPR is here. The genie is out of the bottle. We’ll keep you updated on what happens next…
Editor, The Bleeding Edge