Kathleen M. Vogel
Biochemistry, Science Policy, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
Professor Vogel is a biochemist and an expert in the nonproliferation of biological weapons. The goal of her research is the search for and discovery of alternative theoretical tools to understand bioweapons threats, with the hopes of creating a new and generative intellectual conversation between academia and policymakers. More recently she has worked on CRISPR/Cas9 and the regulation of this technology worldwide. She has served as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the U.S. Department of State since 2016.
This talk discusses the contingencies and complexities of CRISPR. In doing so, it outlines key problems regarding off-target effects and replication of experimental work that are important to consider in light of CRISPR’s touted ease of use and diffusion. In light of literature on the socio-technical dimensions of the life sciences and biotechnology, and literature on former bioweapons programs, this talk argues that we need more detailed empirical case studies of the social and technical factors shaping CRISPR and related gene editing techniques in order to better understand how it may be different from other advances in biotechnology—or if similar features remain. This information will be critical to better inform intelligence practitioners and policymakers about the security implications of new gene editing techniques.