Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stanford CSP 74 Principles of Invention and Innovation (BUS 74). Session 2 Quiz 1

In a recent MIT Technology Review article, Antonio Regaldo describes a new genetic engineering approach that promises to eliminate malaria:
Malaria kills half a million people each year, mostly children in tropical Africa. The price tag for eradicating the disease is estimated at more than $100 billion over 15 years. To do it, you’d need bed nets for everyone, tens of thousands of crates of antimalaria drugs, and millions of gallons of insecticides.
...
A gene drive is an artificial “selfish” gene capable of forcing itself into 99 percent of an organism’s offspring instead of the usual half. And because this particular gene causes female mosquitoes to become sterile, within about 11 generations—or in about one year—its spread would doom any population of mosquitoes. If released into the field, the technology could bring about the extinction of malaria mosquitoes and, possibly, cease transmission of the disease.

Question 1: Using the "Divergeng-Exploratory-Convergent" thinking technique,
a) list lots of benefits and problems that the new approach creates;
b) create an explicit criteria for selecting top benefits and problems;
b) according to your criteria, what are the most important short- and long-term benefits/problems (at least one each)?

Question 2 (optional): What dilemma did the researchers solve, while trying to create their genetically modified mosquito?

Question 3 (optional): What's the difference between system levels that the existing and the new malaria solutions target?

4 comments:

Kevin Haney said...


Question 1: Using the "Diverging-Exploratory-Convergent" thinking technique,

a) list lots of benefits and problems that the new approach creates

Benefits: (1) Can theoretically eliminate malaria much more cheaply than estimated $100B/15 years with conventional techniques, (2) Could potentially save species from going extinct by adding ‘good’ genes to enhance survival, (3) Gene drive solution relatively inexpensive and easy to distribute, (4) Could reverse pesticide/herbicide resistance, (5) Could eliminate other species considered to be ‘problems’

Problems: (1) ‘Selfish’ DNA may potentially jump species barriers causing unwanted havoc elsewhere in the ecosystem, (2) Technology could be used by by terrorists and in warfare for socially-undesirable aims, (3) Could make a species considered ‘good or useful’ (e.g. honeybees) crash or go extinct, (4) Gene drives only work on species that reproduce sexually

b) create an explicit criteria for selecting top benefits and problems;

Benefits must benefit a broad mass of people (e.g. greater than 10M people) with a limited impact on the ecosystem. Benefits must be delivered in a precise, trackable, species-specific manner. An ‘antidote’ must be available to reverse the effects of the gene drive prior to deployment.

Problems must potentially impact a broad mass of people (e.g. greater than 100,000) or multiple species (e.g greater than 10) in the ecosystem.

c) according to your criteria, what are the most important short- and long-term benefits/problems (at least one each)?

Short-term Benefit: Eliminate malaria, save 1-2M people per year, cheaper than $100B/15 years
Long-term Benefit: Cure other diseases delivered by other vectors, reduce pesticide/herbicide resistance as needed, eliminate genetic disorders in humans

Short-term Problem: Gene drives haven’t been used in the wild yet (i.e. inadequate testing)
Long-term Problem: Unanticipated, long-term environmental damage may be caused

Question 2 (optional): What dilemma did the researchers solve, while trying to create their genetically modified mosquito?

The researchers were able to make a targeted, precision change to the mosquito’s genome and have it propagate quickly throughout the entire species in a relatively limited number of generations

Question 3 (optional): What's the difference between system levels that the existing and the new malaria solutions target?

Current malaria suppression schemes target the Anopheles gambiae mosquito at the whole organism level. The new malaria solution targets the solution at the genomic level. The mosquito’s genome is ~278 Mbp (13,683 genes).

Using our ‘three magicians’ technique and going up and down in scale, we can ask; Why not target the Plasmodium parasite? This target has a genome that is ~23 Mbp (5,300 genes), smaller than the mosquito genome by an order of magnitude.

Targeting the Plasmodium parasite may reduce potential environmental impacts from suppressing the mosquito and allow more precision (i.e. only target the actual disease-causing agent and only the mosquitoes that have it).

deadbeef said...

Comment from Evgeny Pasenyants (not sure, how name from my account will appear).

Q1. Pros and cons:

Pros:
- We may get rid from malaria
- No need to involve people to do anything
- Easy to scale solution
- Will save people’s live
- Can scale solution for other problems like that
- Cheap to implement

Disadvantages:
- May have unpredictable outcomes on environment
- Some people will create technology to control environment in their own interests
- No regulation: DNA spill problem
- Selfish: why people has to survive instead of finding their own niche in environment?
- No one tried it: what it will not work?

b) Will save maximum number of people

c) Important benefit.
Short-term:
- we will get rid of malaria

Long-term:
- can scale solution to other problems like that

Cons.

Short-term:
- what if it will make malaria problem even worse?

Long-term:
- unpredictable long-term impact on environment.

Q2:
Dilema: they would like to get rid of malaria, but without having significant impact on the environment system.

Q3:
Existing system level: individual. People individually protect themselves.

New approach: environmental level, people will make changes in environment.

Brian said...

Benefits: save lives, particularly children in tropical Africa, testing gene-drive technology with mosquitos / malaria in Africa could prove the technology effective for other uses (e.g. Hawaii’s disappearing native birds, destructive toads in Australia), mosquitos spreading dengue fever and Zika, etc.

Risks: Untold effects to the ecosystem, e.g. what effect would eradication of mosquitos have on the ecosystem, what animals eat mosquitos as a primary food source, etc., could selfish DNA jump species, what impact would that have on humans? Who makes the decisions that affect species? Governments? NGOs? WWF? What is the decision criteria for making those decisions? Who has a say in those decisions? What are the unintended consequences of gene-drive technology on mosquitos (plague? Jump species?). Who pays for all this if the decision is made to move forward with gene-drive technology? What group administers the program?

Criteria:
- What is the benefit to mankind?
- How much does it cost?
- If moving forward with gene-drive technology to eradicate malaria in mosquitos, what are the known risks (effect to ecosystem, jumping species, etc.)
- If moving forward with gene-drive technology to eradicate malaria in mosquitos, what are the unknown risks?
- How to quantity the unknown risks?

Using the above criteria,

Short-term benefit: Prove out gene-drive technology in a pertinent use case

Long-term benefit: Eradicate malaria and a number of life-threatening illnesses

Short-term problem: A number of unknown risks, including the effect to the ecosystem and any unintended consequences

Long-term problem: Macro-level problems: Who continues to pay for this? Who governs? Who administers? After malaria/mosquitos, who determines prioritizing this technology for other users?

Brian Favat

Leonardo Vieira said...

a)
benefits:
-strong possibility of solving the malaria problem
-possibility of solving other diseases which would might be related to this mosquito (as an analogy to the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, that came out spreading three different diseases by now)

problems:
-impact on food chain balance
-unkown consequences of extinction of the specie
-unkown side effects (such as developing unwanted annomalies of the Malaria's protozoans)


b)
criteria:
The top benefits should be those ones with the least harmfull to the ecosystem in the long term (more than 500 years)
Analogically, the top problems would be those which presentes the most harmfull consequences in the same amount of time.

most important short-term benefits: strong possibility of solving the malaria problem
most important long-term benefits: possibility of solving other diseases which would might be related to this mosquito
most important short-term problems: unkown side effects (such as developing unwanted annomalies of the Malaria's protozoans)
most important long-term problems: unkown consequences of extinction of the specie