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Since the 2012 launch of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool, the possibility of altering the genetic makeup of living organisms has become far more accessible.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created the Safe Genes program in order to understand how these gene editing technologies work, and address potential health and security concerns related to their accidental or international misuse.
DARPA - Awards - Teams - Mission - Applications
DARPA recently announced awards for seven teams that will pursue this mission, which could have applications as far ranging as the protection of troops against infectious disease, defending native wildlife against invasive species, and controlling populations of disease-spreading mosquitoes.
DARPA plans to invest $65 million in its Safe Genes project over the next four years, across seven teams to collect data and develop tools that can be applied to support bio-innovation and combat bio-threats.
Gene - Technologies - CRIPSR - Attention - Professionals
Gene editing technologies such as CRIPSR have been gaining increasing attention from healthcare professionals and policymakers for their potential to do things such as disabling cancerous cells in the body and preventing the spread of disease by controlling mosquito populations.
But the technology also has national security implications, such as protecting troops from infectious diseases, mitigating threats from biological weapons, and developing new types of materials and coatings with useful properties.
Field - Gene - Editing - Pace - Door
'The field of gene editing has been advancing at an astounding pace, opening the door to previously impossible genetic solutions but without much emphasis on how to mitigate potential downsides,' said Dr Renee Wegrzyn, the Safe Genes program manager.
'DARPA launched Safe Genes to begin to refine those capabilities by emphasizing safety first for the full range of potential applications, enabling responsible science to proceed by providing tools to prevent and mitigate misuse.'
DARPA - Teams - Objectives
According to DARPA, each of the seven teams it is working with will pursue one or more of three technical objectives.
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