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DARPA In On Gene Drives

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is putting $100 million toward gene drive research, the Guardian reports.

Researchers have been exploring whether gene drives could use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to introduce alterations into pests' genomes to render them infertile and control their population size. The approach has been of particular interest to combat disease-carrying mosquitos and invasive rodents.

As the Guardian notes, some groups have been worried that gene drives could have unintended consequences, and it says that the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is weighing a moratorium on the technology. Additionally, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said in a report last year that gene drives weren't yet ready for use and that more research into their ecological and other effects is needed. DARPA itself previously announced a research program to explore ways to handle gene drives that have gone amok.

The Guardian adds that UN diplomats say the US military's interest in the technology might make others wary of it.

"DARPA is not and should not be the only funder of gene-editing research but it is critical for the Department of Defense to defend its personnel and preserve military readiness," an agency spokesperson tells the Guardian.