The Mutant Project by Eben Kirksey | Black Inc.

The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans

Awards for The Mutant Project

  • Longlisted, 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize
  • An Australian Country Style Best Book of 2021

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About the author

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 …

More about Eben Kirksey

Praise for The Mutant Project

‘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

‘Kirksey provides a front-row seat to the riveting series of events that led to the world’s first genetically edited humans. It’s an absorbing tale of reckless ambition and breakneck technological advances that raises disturbing questions about the future of the human race.’ —Steve Heine, author of DNA Is Not Destiny: The Remarkable, Completely Misunderstood Relationship between You and Your Genes

The Mutant Project is an engaging, lively and well-written account of recent advances in gene editing technologies in humans. Eben Kirksey provides a fascinating tour of the world behind the headlines, illuminating the science, politics, personalities, money and moral challenges involved.’ —Robert Klitzman MD, Director of Masters of Bioethics Program, Columbia University, and author of Designing Babies: How Technology Is Changing the Ways We Create Children

The Mutant Project exposes the urgency of democratically deliberating the ethics of gene editing before the science hurtles us into a future even more resistant to social change.’ —Dorothy Roberts, author of Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century

‘From high-tech biology labs in Shenzhen to ACT UP activists in Berkeley, Eben Kirksey brings to life a ragtag crew of scientists and bio-hackers trying to mutate the human family, and maybe even cure cancer along the way. At turns terrifying and liberating, this infectiously readable book probes the limits of life itself, how we live it now and how it might be lived in the future.’ —Alexander R. Galloway, author of The Interface Effect

‘Kirksey is not afraid to venture into the unknown. Whether it is the microscopic realm of CRISPR or the fast-mutating milieu that is Shenzhen, China, he plunges into it with courage, care, and most importantly, a sense of wonder. The biological, financial, legal, and ethical entanglements that bind scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, governments, hackers, artists, journalists, patients, and parents together are as unsettling as they are generative. Taking us through this deeply moving journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, Kirksey shows us that it is possible to imagine, even create, a world more livable than the one we inhabit. Such an inspiring book!’ —Fan Yang, author of Faked in China  

‘The issues currently raised by CRISPR and the potential genetic engineering of humans may seem incredibly new, but in fact they are the oldest of all – what it means to be human, and what our relationship is with technology. From the domestication of fire to the smartphone, humans as a species cannot exist without our technologies. In this thought-provoking and well-researched book, Eben Kirksey wrestles anew with this oldest of questions - there are no easy answers, but the journey could change your life.’ —Mark Lynas, author of Seeds of Science: Why We Got it So Wrong on GMOs  

‘A riveting jaunt to the cliff-edge of the future, where scientists, engineers, patients and biohackers struggle over the power, function and meaning of human gene editing. Will gene editing save us or destroy us? Some of us or all of us? With rare access to key players, Kirksey is the perfect guide to this unsettling new ethical and political terrain. This engrossing book deftly integrates science, ethnography, and social fiction through the lens of the author’s peerless analytic imagination. Empathetic, provocative and probing, it is a must read.’ —Alondra Nelson, author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome

The Mutant Project provides insightful and balanced coverage of the history, science, culture, business, and ethics of genetic engineering of humans since the birth of the first three-person IVF baby in 1997. Most importantly, Kirksey’s landmark book uncovers new information about the health and treatment of the families and children affected directly by the fast-moving, ethically murky, and risky reproductive experiments with CRISPR-Cas9 in China. He boldly forecasts a near political future in which all societies will need to become more attentive to the rights and needs of genetically modified human beings.’ —Eileen Hunt Botting, author of Artificial Life After Frankenstein

‘Kirksey asks important questions about the rapidly changing culture of human genomics […] The human genome – and the way humans interact with it – is changing rapidly. Eben Kirksey’s energetic engagement with the culture of human genetics will be fascinating for all students of anthropology.’ —Christine Kenneally, author of The Invisible History of the Human Race