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  • Book Club - The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

Book Club - The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

  • 09 Nov 2023
  • 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
  • Island Recreation Center, 20 Wilborn Rd., Hilton Head Island
  • 3


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Genetic destiny is a central theme of The Code Breaker, Walter Isaacson’s portrait’s portrait of the gene-editing pioneer and Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, who, with a small army of international scientists, handed humanity the first really effective tools to shape it. Isaacson provides a vivid account of how Doudna and her colleagues launched a life-science revolution that will allow us to cure diseases and fend off viruses as it did in the case of COVID vaccines. Driven by a passion to understand how nature works, these scientists turned their curiosity into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions. After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature from the origins of life to the future of our species. It features a nail-biting competition for the highest prize in chemistry, a gigantic battle over patents, and acres of ethical quicksand.

Discussions will focus less on the detailed science of CRISPR, DNA, RNA, Cas-9, etc. and more on the story Isaacson is telling. Most non-scientists skim or skip the sections describing the details of the science: that would be appropriate for this discussion.

Since the publication of the book, Doudna’s Innovative Genomics Institute, now under the leadership of Dr. Brad Ringeisen (December 2023 Distinguished Series presenter) has facilitated the application of CRISPR technology to global issues in agriculture (development of drought resistant crops) and climate change via carbon capture. 

Recognized as Best Book of 2021 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Time, The Washington Post and Smithsonian Magazine


Walter Isaacson is the bestselling author of biographies of Jennifer Doudna, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.  He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2023.

He was President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair and CEO of CNN, and editor of Time.  He is currently a professor at Tulane University and an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, a New York City-based financial services firm. He has chaired and/or served as a member of numerous prominent boards.

World Affairs Council of Hilton Head

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