Professor Jacob Sherkow Co-Authors Article on “Biohacking” in Science Magazine

“Biohacking”—What is it, and do we need to regulate it?

Professor Jacob Sherkow and his co-authors analyze the topic in a new piece published in Science magazine, widely regarded as the world’s premier scientific journal.

In the Science piece, Professor Sherkow and his co-authors explain, “Just as the popularization of computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s gave rise to computer hacking, the recent accessibility and affordability of relatively easy (and widely hyped) genome-editing technologies and resources has spurred interest in genetic ‘biohacking.’”

They define the practice as “molecular genetics experiments performed outside institutional laboratories by individuals who may have little formal scientific training.” And biohacking, they note, could include genetic modification of bacteria, plants, animals, and even humans.

The inherent public health risks of biohacking are amplified, they write, because of how technology has enabled relatively quick and easy gene-editing—a practice that used to be extraordinarily complex.

“Genomic sequencing can be done using portable pocket devices, some of which cost less than a plane ticket,” the piece notes.

In the United States, they write, laws and regulations do place limits on biohacking, but there is room for both public and private entities to increase protections and spread awareness of the complexities—good and bad—as biohacking technology continues to advance.

Professor Sherkow, who is affiliated with NYLS’s Innovation Center for Law and Technology, is a noted biotech and intellectual property expert who has published extensively on issues such as the court battle over who owns the patent for CRISPR, a gene-editing tool. He was recently named to a prestigious biotech ethics fellowship offered by Harvard University.

Find the Science article’s abstract and the (subscription-only) piece.