Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Gene” is a terrifically engaging book

Ivan Semeniuk in The Globe and Mail:

The+GeneEarlier this year, Jennifer Doudna, a molecular biologist at UC Berkeley who is known for her role in developing the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR, got a surprising e-mail from her neighbour. It was a link to a do-it-yourself CRISPR kit on sale for $140 US.

The site included an enticement that until recently would be taken as droll science fiction. “Note to BioHackers: Each Kit comes with all sequence and cloning detail so you can perform your own custom genome engineering.”

Even Doudna, a recent winner of a Canada Gairdner International Award, expresses amazement at the pace, scope and accessibility of the new genetics. In the few short years since she and others got CRISPR to work, the manipulation of genes has become something we can play with at home in our spare time. It’s this newfound capacity, with all its ethical ramifications, that makes Siddhartha Mukherjee’s latest book especially timely.

Mukherjee is a physician and assistant professor at Columbia University whose history of cancer,The Emperor of All Maladies, won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2011. A gifted writer with knack for storytelling, Mukherjee managed to translate his insider’s view of cancer medicine into a memorable read.

With The Gene: An Intimate History, Mukherjee is attempting to capture something far larger. Genetics is not just a field of research, it is the overarching framework that spans the life sciences and the key to heredity and identity. Where cancer provides a rich world of material for narrative treatment, genetics throws in the entire biological universe.

More here.