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Cambridge University Science Magazine
The Codebreaker recounts the discovery that CRISPR/Cas, a bacterial defence system, can be exploited to make precise edits to DNA, with huge ramifications for genetic engineering and gene therapy. Jennifer Doudna, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier for this discovery.

Isaacson first tells a captivating story of scientific research, using interviews with Doudna herself, as well as her collaborators and competitors, to give an insight into how scientific discoveries are made and the drama, disagreements, and competition that might occur along the way. The second half of the book examines the ethics of genome editing and what this might hold for the future of human disease, even covering how CRISPR/Cas might be used for diagnosing and treating COVID-19. Isaacson is careful to highlight the important role that basic scientific research can play in breakthroughs related to human disease, work which is becoming increasingly difficult to secure funding for.

Overall, the book tackles complicated, modern science in an accessible way by bringing to life the people responsible for this influential work, making it an enjoyable read for experts and laypeople alike.

Article by Hazel Walker