The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

In this latest work, best-selling author Isaacson (Steve Jobs) takes a close look at how scientific collaboration actually happens in the modern age, in particular the tension between academic institutions and industry. The author does an admirable job of explaining science in accessible terms and also focusing on the human side of the story. Throughout the work, he sketches quick portraits of the dozens of researchers, scientists, and businesspeople involved with CRISPR from the beginning. Also, given Jennifer Doudna’s recent Nobel Prize win for CRISPR, readers will doubtless want to hear more about her life and the attribution controversy that often attends such awards. One person who reappears frequently is molecular biologist James Watson. Isaacson seems determined to create a connection between Doudna and Watson, but, although Doudna read The Double Helix as a child and met Watson several times, their personalities and attitudes toward genetic manipulation could not be more different. Color photographs of all the key players are extremely helpful and break up the text into bite-sized pieces.
VERDICT Similar to his previous works, Isaacson’s latest is another absorbing story of scientific discovery. The final section on the use of CRISPR to combat COVID-19 will only widen the appeal.
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