Post #42. Coming soon: a word-processor for your DNA

It’s often remarkable to think that it took until 2003 to sequence fully the human genome for the first time. Wind the clock on, and today ancestry and health tests based around DNA are readily available for barely $100. Science and medicine continue to push the boundaries. If your attention has not been grabbed by CRISPR in the recent past, then the concept of prime editing almost certainly will.

Molecular diagnostics, or understanding how the different underlying constituents of what makes us human interact, is a topic that we have followed with interest since 2012. We have continued to track it since, discussing CRISPR for the first time in 2017. Pronounced ‘crisper’ with the letters short for a lengthy technical term not worth repeating here, the science behind it permitted for a then unprecedented degree of precision, efficiency and flexibility in gene editing. Numerous scientific trials are underway, even if no commercial outcomes have yet been spawned. Nonetheless, developments in the field are non-trivial, particularly for those people with rare diseases (estimated at 1 in 2,000 per the FDA) and certain cancerous mutations.    

What caught our eye then this week was a publication in Nature citing research conducted by scientists at the Broad Institute (a joint venture between Harvard and MIT) which claims 89% of errors in DNA that cause disease could be correctedusing the process of prime editing. This is the result of increased flexibility and precision; or as Dr David Liu, one of the researchers, puts it: “you can think of prime editors to be like word processors, capable of searching for target DNA sequences and precisely replacing them.”

Before we start getting too excited, the researchers behind the paper are keen to stress that prime editing should be considered just as a beginning. Beyond demonstrating whether the molecular machinery capable of performing the edits is safe and consistently able to perform the right changes in the right places, there is a larger ethical issue at work. Even if the uses to which precision editing could be put are potentially limitless (consider, for example, the scope to improve food inputs and outputs by better design), the question of whether humanity has the right to engineer its own future needs to be answered. As the science continues to evolve, expect this debate to keep running.


The document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice or any recommendation to buy, or sell or otherwise transact in any investments. The document is not intended to be construed as investment research. The contents of this document are based upon sources of information which Heptagon Capital believes to be reliable. However, except to the extent required by applicable law or regulations, no guarantee, warranty or representation (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this document or its contents and, Heptagon Capital, its affiliate companies and its members, officers, employees, agents and advisors do not accept any liability or responsibility in respect of the information or any views expressed herein. Opinions expressed whether in general or in both on the performance of individual investments and in a wider economic context represent the views of the contributor at the time of preparation. Where this document provides forward-looking statements which are based on relevant reports, current opinions, expectations and projections, actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. All opinions and estimates included in the document are subject to change without notice and Heptagon Capital is under no obligation to update or revise information contained in the document. Furthermore, Heptagon Capital disclaims any liability for any loss, damage, costs or expenses (including direct, indirect, special and consequential) howsoever arising which any person may suffer or incur as a result of viewing or utilising any information included in this document. 

The document is protected by copyright. The use of any trademarks and logos displayed in the document without Heptagon Capital's prior written consent is strictly prohibited. Information in the document must not be published or redistributed without Heptagon Capital's prior written consent. 

Heptagon Capital LLP, 63 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HS
tel +44 20 7070 1800
fax +44 20 7070 1881
email [email protected] 

Partnership No: OC307355 Registered in England and Wales Authorised & Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority 

Related Insights

Featured Insights
Featured Insights15 January 2021

Season 3, Post 2: Hot topics in healthcare

The Westin St Francis hotel on Union Square in downtown San Francisco is normally where the great and good of the healthcare world descend during the second week of January. This year, of course, is far from normal and one of the industry’s largest conferences (organised by JP Morgan and now in its 39th year) […]

Learn more
Featured Insights
Featured Insights06 January 2021

Season 3, Post 1: The weird and wonderful

Welcome to 2021. Sign of the times perhaps, but the title for our opening Blog post of the year perhaps captures both our current and future assessment of the world. Uncertainty reigns as the pandemic rages, but this won’t stop dynamic innovation occurring across all industries. With the present so murky, what could be more […]

Learn more
Future Trends Blog
Future Trends Blog29 December 2020

Post #100: Janus time, 2020 Edition

On 21 January 2019 we penned our first Future Trends Blog piece entitled “Day one; winds of change”, which referenced both the famous mantra of Jeff Bezos and the huge growth potential within the wind industry. Just under two years’ later, we are now at our 100th Blog post, with our readers well into the […]

Learn more

Get The Updates

Separated they live in Bookmarks right at the coast of the famous Semantics, large language ocean Separated they live in Bookmarks right