Regulating Gene Drive Technology

Principal Investigator: Kevin Esvelt

Project Description: Professor Esvelt’s research focuses on gene drive technology, which allow the spread genomic alterations through wild populations, potentially enabling a new form of ecosystem management. This work will require rethinking our current regulatory structures and developing new methods of decision making for technologies that can impact shared environments. The IPL is supporting outreach to local and national stakeholders. The PI has initiated a process that pioneers early-stage community guidance of ecological engineering research in the United States. This sets a precedent for openness and community input during risk assessments while building credibility for technological interventions.

Impact: Professor Esvelt held a series of meetings on Nantucket, which resulted in the formal appointment of 2 members from the community to the project Steering Committee and widespread local support. He identified a local citizen who will likely be able to channel the voices of skeptics and is exploring the possibility of appointing her to the Steering Committee as well. He also held meetings on Martha’s Vineyard which resulted in approval to move forward in his research by 4 of the 6 Boards of Health.

IPL Support: Providing legal advice, consultations, and workshops to explore the feasibility and limits of this strategy for regulating gene drives and potentially other areas of research.