The STEM Read Podcast – CRISPR, COVID, and Pure Curiosity with Walter Isaacson and Mike Jones

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The latest episode of the STEM Read Podcast picks up in the middle of a revolution. Not a political revolution or even a digital revolution. We’re in the middle of a biological revolution.

It started about a billion years ago when bacteria began evolving to defend themselves against viruses, but the biological revolution really kicked into high gear when scientist Jennifer Doudna and her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier discovered the structure and functions of that bacterial defense system CRISPR-CAS-9 and realized that it could be used to edit human genes.

Since their initial discoveries in 2012, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and CRISPR has been used to create innovative new treatments for everything from sickle-cell anemia to the COVID vaccines.

On this episode, host Gillian King-Cargile talks with biographer Walter Isaacson (@WalterIsaacson), author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs, about his new book The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. The book chronicles the discoveries surrounding CRISPR and the brilliant scientists racing toward publications, patents, and prizes.

Next, Gillian talks to Mike Jones (@StemNinja), a science teacher at the Thomas Metcalf School in Normal, Illinois. Jones’ 8th grade class recently spent six weeks studying everything from CRISPR’s molecular structure to its implications for medical ethics. We’ll also hear from some of his students, who will share their thoughts and insights on how CRISPR could edit humanity’s future.

Listen now on NPR, WNIJ, or wherever you get your podcasts!

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson