The Mutant Project

The Mutant Project

Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans

Eben Kirksey


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An anthropologist visits the frontiers of genetics, medicine and technology to ask: whose values are guiding gene-editing experiments, and what are the implications for humanity?

At a conference in Hong Kong in November 2018, Dr Jiankui He announced that he had created the first genetically modified babies – twin girls named Lulu and Nana – sending shockwaves around the world. A year later, a Chinese court sentenced Dr He to three years in prison for ‘illegal medical practice’.

As scientists elsewhere start to catch up with China’s vast genetic research program, gene editing is fuelling an innovation economy that threatens to widen racial and economic inequality. Fundamental questions about science, health and social justice are at stake. Who gets access to gene-editing technologies? As countries loosen regulations around the globe, can we shape research agendas to promote an ethical and fair society?

Professor Eben Kirksey takes us on a groundbreaking journey to meet the key scientists, lobbyists and entrepreneurs who are bringing cutting-edge genetic modification tools like CRISPR to your local clinic. He also ventures beyond the scientific echo chamber, talking to doctors, hackers, chronically ill patients, disabled scholars, and activists and who have alternative visions of a genetically modified future for humanity.

The Mutant Project empowers us to ask the right questions, uncover the truth, and navigate this new era of scientific enquiry.

‘This book is a beautiful mutant, part mystery, part horror story, part genetic science and totally engaging. Kirksey takes us adventuring – whirling through an exciting and informative journey we encounter genes, CRISPR, technology, scientists, people, hopes, dreams and land smack dab in the mess of “human nature”. If you only read one book about genomic technologies and human futures, this should be it.’ —Agustin Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

‘Written with the gumption of an ethnographer, historian and investigative journalist all in one, The Mutant Project is a fascinating record of close-up encounters at the vanguard of human genetic engineering. That rare kind of scholarship that is also a page-turner.’ —Britt Wray, author of Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction


Eben Kirksey:
Eben Kirksey is an expert on science and justice. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Atlantic and Wired. He is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and an associate professor of anthropology at Deakin University, Melbourne. Kirksey is the author of Freedom in Entangled Worlds and Emergent Ecologies.