[ExI] Gene Drive and morality

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Thu Sep 27 02:30:35 UTC 2018

On Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 10:30 AM <spike at rainier66.com> wrote:

> If any lab anywhere finds this, there is no way to stop it using legal
> means.  Anyone working at that lab could come to the same decision you (and
> I) did, then secretly release them.  There would be no way to prove
> whodunnit and even if you somehow got a confession, I doubt anything
> serious would come of it.  They will get loose.
> Let’s hope for the best, with confidence in this particular case.
### I also hope that somebody at the lab will have the guts to release the
gene-drive mosquitoes in their African habitat but I am worried that the
drive may not be sufficient to kill off all Anopheles gambiae. There is a
big difference between killing a few hundred insects in a cage versus
achieving a population-wide sweep in the wild. In the first case we have
only a small risk of unusual mutations capable of circumventing the exon 5
functional restraint, and there is panmixis. In the latter there are
trillions or quadrillions of A.gambiae, so the risk of mutations causing
resistance to the drive is billions of times larger. Insects in the wild
are not panmictic, which means that even if all insects infected by the
gene drive die, there is a high chance that tiny isolated groups may avoid
infection and then spread once all infected insects die off.

Successful eradication of this species may require more than just a grad
student opening a test tube with a couple of skeeters. You may need
multi-gene drive drive to overcome rare mutations - I read an estimate of 5
gene drives working in parallel being theoretically sufficient to kill even
very large populations. You may also need a monitoring program for
re-emergence of the insects from refugia, and targeted deployment of
additional infected insects to destroy such refugia before they manage to
repopulate their full range. This would be similar to the smallpox
eradication program.

I hope it will happen.

The prophecy of Saints Doudna and Zhang says: "We shall rise in righteous
anger against the plague swarms thrown at us by our vicious creator, and we
will grind them into the dust whence they came. Our enemies will dwindle
before the weapons forged in the citadel-laboratory of the Imperial
College. Our future will be bathed in numinous LED light, unmarred by
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