Gene drives in our future: Challenges of and opportunities for using a self-sustaining technology in pest and vector management

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51 Scopus citations


Gene drives are systems of biased inheritance that enhance the likelihood a sequence of DNA passes between generations through sexual reproduction and potentially throughout a local population and ultimately all connected populations of a species. Gaps in our knowledge of gene drive systems prompted the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Foundation for the NIH to ask the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to convene an expert panel to provide an independent, objective examination of what we know about gene drive systems. The report, "Gene drives on the horizon: Advancing science, navigating uncertainty, and aligning research with public values," outlines our understanding of the science, ethics, public engagement, governance, and risk assessment pertaining to gene drive research. Researchers have studied naturally occurring gene drive systems for more than a century. While CRISPR/Cas9 was not the first molecular tool considered to create an engineered gene drive, the advent of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology for gene editing gave a renewed impetus to developing gene drives in the laboratory for eventual release in the field. Recent experiments demonstrate that a CRISPR/Cas9-based gene drive can spread a targeted gene throughout nearly all of laboratory populations of yeast, fruit flies, or mosquitoes. Applying this basic science, there are proposals to use gene drive modified organisms to address such things as eradication of insect-borne infectious diseases and conservation of threatened and endangered species. Gene drives could potentially support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds, and by control of damaging, invasive species. A major recommendation of the NASEM report is that there is insufficient evidence at this time to support release of gene-drive modified organisms into the environment. Importantly, the committee also recognized that the potential benefits of gene drives for basic and applied research are significant and justify proceeding with laboratory research and controlled field trials. This review summarizes highlights of the NASEM report with its focus on using the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology to develop gene drive modified organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalBMC Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 19 2018


  • Gene drives
  • Governance
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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