A 3D rendering of a DNA molecule.
A 3D rendering of a DNA molecule.

The Code of Life and CRISPR with Jennifer Doudna and Walter Isaacson

Tim Tim (VD fr), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

Are we entering the age of designer babies? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice sit down with biographer and writer of The Code Breaker Walter Isaacson to explore Neil’s interview with Nobel Prize-winning biochemist, Jennifer Doudna, about her pioneering work with CRISPR technology. 

Are molecules the new microchip? You’ll learn about the life sciences revolution and the potentials of genome editing through CRISPR technology. We discuss Doudna’s early work with RNA and it’s core questions: how do you go from organic molecules to RNA? Did life start elsewhere? But if it did, how did it start there? Doudna explains how CRISPR works, along with its capabilities and limitations. Could CRISPR be used to eliminate genetic conditions? Create super soldiers? 

We break down the difference between somatic and germline editing and the ethical challenges that come with the latter. Is editing DNA unethical? Are there instances where it would be unethical not to? Find out how CRISPR should be regulated and if it would even be possible to police. What happens when the government makes reproductive decisions? We examine society’s definitions of disability and the risk of this technology falling into eugenics. Is society ready to handle this power?

Discover why Doudna won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and not biology. We explore the importance of competition and duty in science. How is CRISPR technology helping in the fight against COVID-19? We explore current uses of CRISPR with Doudna’s Innovative Genomics Institute, and where the future of this technology is going. How do we use this technology to solve real-world problems while preserving diversity and respecting individuality? Are fears about designer babies justified? All these big societal questions, plus, find what Jennifer Doudna and Benjamin Franklin have in common. 

Thanks to our Patrons Miguel Santana!!, Cristina Magistrali, Phillipe Dewindt, Toren Wallengren, Eric Huffman, Christopher Sukhanenya, Dmitry Pugachevich for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

In This Episode

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