With the advent of CRISPR, a new way to edit DNA, the field of genomic technology has never been more exciting. The implications have yet to be seen, but scientists could theoretically snip out a person’s genetic risk for disease. But it’s also never been a more anxiety-inducing time. Some experts argue innovations in genomics are moving forward at a pace faster than our ability to parse their potential consequences.
In a panel discussion at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, scientists discussed the promises and perils of this breakthrough technology—some of which they’re already starting to see.
“I think CRISPR is a very exciting discovery,” said J. Craig Venter, co-founder of the health company Human Longevity, Inc. and one of the first scientists to sequence the human genome. Venter is using genome sequencing as a way to help predict a person’s risk for disease and offer more personalized treatment with a physical exam called the Health Nucleus: an eight-hour, $25,000 inside-and-out doctor’s appointment that includes whole-genome sequencing, high-tech scanning and early diagnostics.
So far the company has sequenced more than 40,000 human genomes. Of the people that complete the Health Nucleus, one in 40 will discover they have a serious cancer they didn’t know about, he said.