Gene-editing to cure disease is on the way!

It's been awhile since I've posted. Here's a short piece I put together for my author Facebook page on Crispr and the treatment of disease on the genetic level. This one is about an impending trial to treat cancer using modifications to the immune system.

A federal ethics panel has approved an experiment to edit the immune systems of 18 patients to target cancer cells more effectively. The FDA still needs to give final approval. This is amazing science and regardless of the outcome, shows the awesome potential of gene editing to treat genetically-based diseases.


The fact is, this kind of genetic engineering is coming much quicker than many anticipated. I remember reading about the first trials of gene therapy many years ago and marveling at what was to come. Well, that was 20 years ago and gene therapy is still very much an idea with an abundance of promise but with little in the way of widespread success. The difference this time around is Crispr, which is a power and low-cost way to edit the genome. Crispr has often been referred to as molecular scissors. As the story I've linked to in this post says, the upcoming trial is just the beginning of a whole new way to treat disease, to modify food and to essentially rewrite the genome.


My first novel, EVEN THE WIND -- soon to be re-released with a new title and cover -- uses Crispr as a plot device to advance a nefarious scheme to profit from genetic manipulation. At the time of the writing, I thought the technique highly speculative and fanciful. The thing is, I don't really think that way anymore. The conceit of my use of Crispr was that its low cost and relative ease of use -- and the speed with which it produces results -- puts extremely powerful biological tools into the hands of folks with little specialized training. This is exactly what is happening today. And as the accompanying posts says, it's happening much faster than many thought.


One side note: the experimental cancer treatment is being funded by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. The institute was launched by Sean Parker of Facebook and file-sharing service Napster fame. So it looks like there's some good coming from file-sharing after all. Hooray for that.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-23/crispr-wins-key-approval-to-fight-cancer-in-human-trials
 

The Tailor of Panama has nothing on these guys.

A keen reader will know that shell companies, offshore accounts, dodgy financial dealings and the Virgin Islands are referenced in my debut novel.

I was reminded of the dubious nature of global money flow this week with the release of the Panama Papers. Kudos to the global media organizations who blew the lid on these shady practices. Some of the best coverage has been in The Guardian, while the BBC had a very informative primer on money laundering and shell companies.

Honestly, as a fiction writer, I have to scratch my head in wonder. It's a cliche, but you just can't make this stuff up. The Panama Papers make Edward Snowden's document dump look like child's play. I'm confident thriller writers will be mining the Panama Papers for years to come. More importantly, the transparency that the Panama Papers bring to fund management and the behaviors of the world's wealthiest and most privileged is only a good thing. As of this writing, one world leader has already been booted from office. More will surely come.

So what is to be done? Shining a light on this practice is a start. Advocating for real change and tougher regulation is a next step. For me, I'll continue to fold some of these more nefarious practices into my fiction in the hope that it both entertains and informs.

If you're interested in finding out more about me or my writing, please consider signing up on my website for the occasional newsletter and to stay informed about upcoming book releases, contests and giveaways.

If you have any thoughts about the Panama Papers, shoot me an email at ebooks@kissakibooks.com.

 

 

 

An Appreciation of Genius

Not sure why, but I've spent a little bit of time this week down the rabbit hole looking at the works of Michael Crichton. The man was truly a genius and I recommend any of his books to a reader with even a passing interest in science. Crichton was that rare breed of writer who was able to make the esoteric and the complicated easily accessible. I especially enjoyed `Jurassic Park.' If you've seen the movie but haven't read the book, please do yourself a favor and get the book. You won't regret it. Other favorites include `Rising Sun' and `Sphere.' Again, the movies of these books didn't do the source material justice. Crichton's narratives are brimming with ideas and meditations on a host of subjects. 

For a real taste of who Michael Crichton was and what he was all about, I recommend the following video. It's well worth the time:

http://www.michaelcrichton.com/an-appreciation-of-michael-crichton/

Teasers and such

This was a little teaser trailer I pulled together in the run-up to the publication of Even The Wind. Thought I'd post it on the blog just for fun. I had a bit of a laugh putting this out.

The /now page movement and one cool dude

I was listening to a podcast recently featuring Derek Sivers, who, frankly, sounds like a pretty cool dude. If you don’t know Derek and you want to listen to the podcast, you should check it out here.  Derek’s website is www.sivers.org

Derek talks about the now movement and placing something on websites that describes what we are doing at the moment. This seems to me to make a heck of a lot of sense. Much better than the About pages, which are static and boring. I’m going to add a now page to my website at some point, but for now, and in the spirit of Derek’s views, here’s what I’m up to:

I’m in the process of writing a new book featuring the main character from Even the Wind, Boston Police Lieutenant Jonas Brant. This new one features the violent stabbing death of a rare coin dealer, money laundering and the question of identity. The idea is to provide a bridge between the main events of the debut novel and the one that comes after. Writing is no easy task. I roughly estimate that Even the Wind took about 600 hours to write and edit. That’s 25 days sitting in a room by myself tapping away at a keyboard. It’s a really good thing I enjoy my own company!!

So what else am I up to? Working hard at being a journalist and dad, reading an awesome police procedural first written in the ‘80s called One Police Plaza by William J. Caunitz (now available on Kindle) and listening to some great podcasts. This week’s serving from Tim Ferriss features Naval Ravikant answering questions. It’s very thought-provoking and worth the time. Check it out here.

That’s it for now. 

Every couple of weeks I send out a newsletter with a few book reviews, observations, interesting websites — whatever catches my interest. If you’re interested, send me an email to ebooks@kissakibooks.com and I’ll include you in the distribution list.