Your super short, super simple, guide to CRISPR

No, CRISPR isn't a new type of uber-crispy, super-tasty french fry. (Although, that also might be equally as awesome...)

CRISPR is actually much more important than snack food. And innovative. It might be one of the most important technological advances of our lifetime, and something you're going to start hearing a lot about in the near future and beyond.

The most simple way to describe what CRISPR is: It's a text editor for DNA. And it's going to change our freaking world.

You may be thinking "I'm a software PM - what does this have to do with me?" You may be right - CRISPR probably doesn't affect your job - right now. But as product managers that work in technology, we want to be cognizant of all new technology, as it may affect our jobs in the near future - without much notice.

Coming to a zoo near you... made possible by CRISPR!

Coming to a zoo near you... made possible by CRISPR!

You may be thinking, "I thought we'd already figured out how to edit DNA in some capacity." That's true. But CRISPR makes genetic modification super duper really easy. As in, a high school student could order a kit and splice a hamster and a dog in their basement kind of easy. (This is eerie-Margaret-Atwood-Oryx-and-Crake kind of shit - I'm thinking about you, rakunks!) Check out this CRISPR kit that you can buy online for $150. 

If you want to know the nitty gritty scientific details of how it works, this is a great article. But I'm more concerned about its product applications, so I'm going to keep it simple.

"Well, why is that so important!?" you ask. You thought gene editing had been around for a while now. But CRISPR makes editing genomes really easy. 

What are ways in which people are productizing CRISPR?

  • Designer babies: CRISPR will most definitely be used in the future to create perfect humans. Legal regulation may put this off for a few years, but eventually the demand from the rich people in society will be so great, no government will be able to stop their upper classes from using this technology to create designer babies - and much more cheaply. However, CRISPR's inventor, Jennifer Doudna, is worried that genetically modified children could have unexpected consequences - like unintended illnesses and disabilities. So your CRISPR kid may be acne-free (gone teenage angst!)...  but might also have some horrific nervous system disease we never even imagined.
  • The Next Pandemic: anyone could possibly order a CRISPR kit online and create a terrible pandemic. This is terrifying - and very feasible.
  • Bringing back extinct things. This could be great for black Rhinos. Not so great if we have a Jurassic Park situation.
  • Super crops. Think, making plants resistant to disease.
  • Curing Cancer. Many scientists think CRISPR is the key to curing cancer.