US Defense Dept Invests $65 Million into Gene Editing Technology
If the Space Corps wasn’t weird enough for you, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) just announced investing $65 million into a gene editing program. Of course, super soldiers are on everyone’s mind. Here’s where the money is going and what it’s for…
DARPA created the Safe Gene Program last year when the defense department started worrying about the reduced cost and increased accessibility of gene editing programs (especially CRISPR). DARPA describes this accessibility as “both positive and negative.”
Now keep in mind, gene editing can apply to a wide variety of organisms. A big concern is probably the food industry. US-based company Monsanto has just about a global monopoly on genetically-modified seeds. So as gene editing becomes more and more accessible, more companies could create their own genetically modified products to compete.
A global food monopoly certainly isn’t “innocent” but it’s still one of the more benign projects this gene editing program could undertake. Not to sound like Alex Jones, but when DARPA gets involved with something this should probably send up a red flag. DARPA is a branch of US defense that has concocted some weird sh*t since its inception at the beginning of the Cold War. Remote control animals, weather control, mosquito drones akin to Black Mirror. I’m not saying every DARPA project is a malicious conspiracy — that would ignore a lot of other variables. But DARPA is where everyone’s insane ideas go to die.
DARPA announced at the end of July that the $65 million will be spread among 7 different agencies for research purposes. All the recipients are universities or medical research facilities like Harvard, University of California Berkeley, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital. The goal is to make gene editing as safe and efficient as possible. Which is rightfully a big concern. I mean who wants half-human half-pigs walking around?!
No but seriously. Can you imagine would happen if an “edited” invasive species of mosquito accidentally got loose? It sounds crazy, but it’s happened before. During the Cold War, the US experimented with this by dropping mosquitoes over various US cities. And scientists still aren’t sure what triggered the massive Zika outbreak carried by mosquitoes.
At this point, we know that the team at Harvard will study gene mutations developed through radiation exposure. So soon you could “edit” your genes to make you resistant to radiation. They also plan on studying making genes resistant to gene editing itself. According to DARPA’s website, the testing will take place on both insects and animals.
Since they’ll be editing genes with the goal of making them resistant to radiation, the idea of “super soldiers” doesn’t seem too far-fetched. But keep in mind, gene editing has lots of practical real world applications. It could potentially wipe-out many diseases, create new medical treatments, protect against invasive species, and make food production more efficient. But on the other hand it could also create a whole new category of biological weapons. So how the research ends up practically applied is probably anyone’s guess at this point.