Genetic editing is one of the most promising new approaches to treating human diseases today.
Also raises "huge" ethical issues, he recently warned Bill Gates, and "it could worsen inequality, especially if it is only available to wealthy people".
"I am surprised that these issues have not generated more public attention in general," he said in a December blog post, adding that "this could be the most important public debate we have not had widely enough. "
Genetic editing allows scientists to make powerful and precise changes to a person's DNA, typically to correct a faulty gene.
Ethical concerns about what the approach could be used have existed for a long time, but recently a bubbling occurred when a Chinese researcher claimed to have played a role in the creation of the first genetically modified children.
The genetic editing has already taken place in humans in the United States as a one-off treatment for the disease. But unlike these efforts, the work of the Chinese scientist would have allowed to pass on genetic mutations to other generations. He quickly unleashed the backlash, with many researchers describing the project as worrisome and unethical.
The warning of Gates, published as part of the wrap-up of the billionaire philanthropist of 201
"They are in agreement with those who say that this scientist has gone too far," said Gates. "But something good can come from your job if it encourages more people to learn and talk about gene editing."
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Gates suggested to those who are Affected check out "The Gene," a volume of about 600 pages of the famous cancer doctor Siddhartha Mukherjee who describes the history of genetics. (Gates, previously named "The Gene", one of his favorite books of 2016.)
"This story is to be followed, because the great discoveries – some good, some worrying – are coming," said Gates.