25 August seminar: Now that we can use CRISPR to change genomes, should we?

Please join us for the first seminar in the ‘Healthy Futures’ seminar series hosted by the Deakin Science and Society Network (SSN). You can join the conversation on Twitter by following us at @SSNDeakin and using the hashtags #SSNseminar #HealthyFutures.

Click here to register and find out how to tune in. 



It has been said that humanity has progressed through three ages that involved learning to speak, to write and now to write the genetic code. The last age has only just begun but already CRISPR-gene editing is changing how people think about the future of human life and other lifeforms. The first publicised applications of CRISPR-mediated editing are related to efforts to cure inherited diseases via somatic gene therapy, affecting only subsets of human cells such as blood cells. But others have talked about germ-line gene therapy which would permanently alter the genetic code and would be carried on to future generations. Some even speculate about ‘genetic enhancement’ and ‘designer babies’. One researcher has modified human embryos with the intention of ensuring they are immune to HIV infection. There is also the question of modifying agricultural animals or plants and indeed ridding the world of pest species such as the mosquitoes that carry malaria or eliminating rats and mice. Are these things really possible and are they wise?

About the speaker:

Merlin Crossley is a leading Australian molecular biologist, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Crossley grew up in Melbourne and completed his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and completed his doctorate in Oxford. He is widely recognized for his research in gene regulation, in particular, for his contributions to understanding two of the most famous genetic diseases, Haemophilia and Sickle Cell Anaemia. In addition, he has been instrumental in the initial identification and cloning of genes encoding several important new transcription factors and co-regulators. Crossley is also an enthusiastic teacher and science communicator, an Editorial Board Member of The Conversation, and of BioEssays, a Trustee of the Australian Museum, Deputy Director of the Australian Science Media Centre, and a former Board Member of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.

About the discussants:

Eben Kirksey, an associate professor of Anthropology at Deakin University, is currently in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He has published two books with Duke University Press: Emergent Ecologies and Freedom in Entangled Worlds. His most recent book, The Mutant Project: Inside the Race to Genetically Modify Humans, is now available on St. Martin’s Press.

Neera Bhatia is an Associate Professor in Law at Deakin University. She has previously held the role of Director of Research in the Deakin Law School. She is the author of ‘Critically impaired infants and end of life decision making: Resource allocation and difficult decisions’ published by Routledge Cavendish (UK). Her research interests are in the area of end of life decision making for infants and children, organ donation, euthanasia and more recently cryonics.

About the chair:

Associate Professor Jeff Craig is a Lecturer in Medical Sciences at School of Medicine at Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria. Prior to this, he spent twenty years as a researcher at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne. He studies the role of epigenetics in mediating the effects of early life environment on the risk for chronic disease. He is currently developing epigenetic biomarkers from easy-to-collect biosamples.