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Spiny grass and scraggly pines creep amid the arts-and-crafts buildings of the Asilomar Conference Grounds, 100 acres of dune where California’s Monterey Peninsula hammerheads into the Pacific. It’s a rugged landscape, designed to inspire people to contemplate their evolving place on Earth. So it was natural that 140 scientists gathered here in 1975 for an unprecedented conference.
They were worried about what people called “recombinant DNA,” the manipulation of the source code of life. DNA is what genes are made of, and genes are the basis of heredity. Preeminent genetic researchers like David Baltimore, then at MIT, went to Asilomar to grapple with the implications of being able to decrypt and reorder genes.
Earlier this year, Baltimore joined 17 other researchers for another California conference, this one at the Carneros Inn in Napa Valley. “It was a feeling of déjà vu,” Baltimore says. There he was again, gathered with some of the smartest scientists on earth to talk about the implications of genome engineering.
The stakes, however, have changed. Everyone at the Napa meeting had access to Crispr-Cas9. Using the three-year-old technique, researchers have already reversed mutations that cause blindness, stopped cancer cells from multiplying, and made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS.
Read full, original post: The Genesis Engine