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Interview With Gaza Team Leader For OCHA Gemma Connell; Interview With Historian Timothy Snyder; Interview With Musician Lenny Kravitz; Interview With Chemistry Nobel Laureate And U.C. Berkeley Biomedical And Health Sciences Chancellor's Chair Jennifer Doudna. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 04, 2024 - 13:00:00 ET
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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
On the ground in Gaza, I speak to the woman leading the U.N. humanitarian efforts there about the ever-worsening situation.
Then, a turning point for democracy in 2024. My conversation with Yale historian Timothy Snyder, author of "On Tyranny," tells me about his hopes
and fears for the year ahead.
Also, "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over." Rock star Lenny Kravitz on being shortlisted for an Oscar, having a new album, and turning 60.
Finally, a groundbreaking treatment. Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna tells Walter Isaacson how CRISPR is revolutionizing the treatment of diseases
like sickle cell anemia.
Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Fears of a wider war are growing in the Middle East. Today, a U.S. strike in Baghdad on a pro-Iranian militia leader. Yesterday, two blasts in Iran
killed at least 80 people and injured nearly 300 others near the grave of the military commander Qasem Soleimani. And the day before, a senior Hamas
figure was killed in an airstrike on a building in Beirut.
These fears have been growing ever since October 7th, when the brutal attack by Hamas inside Israel triggered Israel's massive counteroffensive
inside Gaza. More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
And right now, both the IDF and Hamas say the current fighting is in the slum city of Khan Younis. A place my next guest has literally just left.
Gemma Connell is the Gaza team leader for the U.N.'s humanitarian office known as OCHA. And I reached her in Gaza near the Egyptian border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Gemma Connell, welcome to the program from Gaza.
GEMMA CONNELL, GAZA TEAM LEADER FOR OCHA: Thank you so much for having me, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: You have been there for the better part of a month now consistently. What is it like? We hear that no place is safe. That's what
international humanitarians say, that it's so difficult just to survive, much less to try to help those who are in need of help. What is it actually
like for you?
CONNELL: Well, Christiane, again, I always say what it's like for me is not the story, it's what it is for the people who are living everywhere
around me. And just this afternoon, as I came home, I saw all of the people who have been fleeing south in these past days. And just this evening, we
had more people arrive to the area just outside our guest house where they're setting up makeshift tents and shelters in order to try and
But every night we hear the shelling, every night we hear the gunfire. And there are many days when it's very close. There was one day, Christiane,
when I was about to head out on a convoy and there was naval gunfire, literally just 50 to 100 meters away from us in the cars as we moved out.
So, to give you a sense, that's what every day is like for me. And I am one of the most protected people in Gaza. And so, when we say there is no safe
place, there truly is no safe place in Gaza.
AMANPOUR: And you are, right now, I believe near Rafah, which is meant to be the place where people can come in and out, humanitarians and those who
have permission to leave. So, I get what you're saying.
I want to play a little bit of a voice message, a video message you posted on Twitter/X just this week when there had been people killed actually in
the hospital that you were at. So, let me just play a little bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNELL: Five people were killed here, including a five-day-old child. No child in the world should be killed, let alone one sheltering under the
emblem of a humanitarian organization. This war has to end.
You can see just behind me the diapers. This was a space where babies were living. This is a space where children were living. You can see on the
floor, the blood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And it is very graphic. We see your camera, or the camera panned down and reveal that. What else are you seeing? And you get very
passionate. You go on about how it's a shame for the world, and how this war must stop. I'm curious as to how you mix your emotions with your
professional duty as a U.N.-er.
CONNELL: Christiane, the two for me go together because I wouldn't do this work if I wasn't emotional about it. As a humanitarian, it's my job to care
So, what I see here every day and what I hear here every day, it's my job to communicate that back to the world. And the first message that every
single person that I have met in the month that I have been here in Gaza, the first message they give me is that the war must end.
I met a family of women, their entire family killed except for five women. And one of them turned and looked at me, her pregnant daughter had been
killed, and she said, we don't need food. We don't need water. We need an end to this war.
And so, for me, that's what I communicate back every day, Christiane. I have met children. I have watched children die. I have met a baby who was
born in the street because his mother couldn't get to the hospital because of ground forces, that baby died and that family had been trying to have
that baby for years. And any person in the world knows how difficult that journey is to have a child to then have it die in the street.
And so, we must be emotional about this, to be honest, because that's our humanity. And for me, my biggest fear is that the world doesn't see the
people of Gaza as the humans that they are. And yet, every day, that's exactly what I see, is the humans of Gaza and the devastating and
catastrophic toll of this war on humans.
AMANPOUR: It is an incredibly tragic and devastating situation as you point out and as we see daily from the reports and the pictures of what's
unraveling there. And we've reached out to the IDF about this particular issue.
But I want to also ask you then, because in the weeks that have passed, we've heard from the U.N. and others that they may say they don't need food
and they want an end to the war. Of course, they want an end to the war. But we've heard that, you know, perhaps half Gaza is in risk of famine.
People don't actually have enough fresh water, enough food. What are you hearing? And what are you able to deliver?
CONNELL: No, absolutely. When the women told me that it wasn't because they didn't need it, it was because they felt the only thing that could end
their suffering is an end to the war.
But Christiane, the suffering is everywhere. I mean, absolutely everywhere that I have been. And I have been in the south of the Gaza Strip. I have
been up to Gaza City. And when you cross the checkpoint into the north of Gaza, I have never in my humanitarian career seen the level of suffering,
desperation and deprivation that the people who are across that checkpoint are suffering. It has driven people to their absolute limit. No food, no
water, very little medical supplies. That's what we see in the north.
And here in the south where people continue to arrive, just this evening, as I left the office to the guest house, there was still hundreds of people
pouring in to Rafah from the middle area where this new offensive is taking place, carrying whatever belongings they have left bearing in mind most
people have now been displaced, not once, not twice, but six or seven times. And the people here have nothing as well.
And I met with families who are sharing shoes and socks because they don't have those. It's the middle of winter now and the children are exposed.
I've met with families who don't have the money to try and put a shelter over their children's head. We see Children who are out in the open with
nothing. I've met with mothers who are devastated because they cannot provide their children with diapers. And I've met with women who can't
access sanitary pads.
So, when we say that the suffering is everywhere, it is absolutely everywhere that I look.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you specifically, I don't know whether you can answer this, it's potentially an UNRWA situation, but you are the U.N. as well.
UNRWA has complained that there's just too much obstacles to getting trucks of aid. The IDF has responded by public tweeting saying that, you can't
keep avoiding the facts. There is no collective punishment. Two crossings are open You said you could transfer 200 trucks a day in Keren Shalom, yet
you're not even scraping a hundred over the last 80 days. We've adjusted ourselves, all you've been doing is stalling.
This is a weird conversation to be having over humanitarian aid. But are you stalling? Is the U.N. stalling or why aren't the required number of
trucks coming in?
CONNELL: It is a very weird conversation, let alone one to be having over Twitter when what we're talking about is the fate of more than 2.2 million
people in the Gaza Strip who are in desperate need.
And we are not stalling, Christiane. The fact that all of us here wake up every day trying to get assistance out is proof positive of the fact that
we are not stalling. There are many challenges. The trucks that come from Egypt go through multiple screenings. Rafah, as you know, was never
designed to be a goods crossing.
The screening that is done at Kerem Shalom is a good step forward, but no crossing from Israel is actually open for the delivery of goods through
Israel into the Gaza Strip, which, as you know, was the primary way that goods came in. And we are not just talking about the humanitarian supplies.
We need the commercial sector to become revived at scale for people to be able to revive their lives.
AMANPOUR: We're so pleased to have you on. Gemma Connell, thank you so much, from the U.N.'s OCHA Department. Thank you.
CONNELL: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, that crisis and others around the world is sure to affect this year which is shaping up to be the biggest election year in history.
With more than 40 percent of the planet's population going to the polls in countries like India, South Africa and of course, in the United States,
which promises to be a Trump Biden rerun.
Biden says democracy itself is on the ballot this year. While Former President Trump battle states that have already removed him from their
ballots. Who better to break down exactly what's at stake in these global elections and the two raging wars that threaten to dominate than Yale
historian and author of "On Tyranny," Timothy Snyder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Timothy Snyder, welcome back to our program.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, HISTORIAN: I'm very glad to be with you.
AMANPOUR: So, we want to start the new year with some of your historical perspective and wisdom. Everybody is talking about how this next year
people around the world are going to go to elections. They're incredibly important elections. I guess, potentially, the United States is the most
important election, you tell me.
But "The Economist" is calling it the biggest election year in history. How do you look at it?
SNYDER: I agree. I think this is a year in which probably democracy, as we understand it, will either continue and improve, or it will tip over into
something which is no longer recognizable.
We have more or less real elections in India. We have more or less real elections in the U.S. We have fake elections in Russia. And we have a war
between Russia and Ukraine, which is largely about whether democracies can survive and defend themselves. So, I think people are right to think that
2024 is going to be a kind of turning point one way or the other.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about the threat to democracy or where democracy is most challenged, as you just said, you know, on the
battlefront in Ukraine. This looks to be going incredibly badly for Ukraine right now, and it's a shock, frankly. It's a shock to the system after we,
the public, and we, the press, have been reporting for years that the U.S. and Europe has been saying, for as long as it takes, we will help Ukraine
defend itself, and that all seems to be thrown up in smoke right now with the Congress, with the E.U., either not or delaying crucial aid with Russia
clearly making some advances on the battlefield.
What is the most important thing that needs to be done now?
SNYDER: Just a couple of quick things in the background here. The first thing to remember is that the Ukrainians, from the beginning of the war to
now, have been doing incredibly well with whatever they've been provided with. And even this last year, and even these last few months and weeks,
they've been extracting extraordinary Russian casualties, and they've been doing a very good job at stopping these huge Russian barrages of missiles
They're the reliable piece in all of this. We're the unreliable piece. And as you say, that's the shocking part. It's shocking, not just because
Ukrainians are defending democracy and the rule of law, it's also shocking because the people who oppose democracy and the rule of law, not only in
Moscow, but also in Beijing and elsewhere, are looking very carefully on what happens.
So, what needs to happen is -- from our point of view, is actually very simple, we need to unblock the aid for Ukraine, which will allow the
Ukrainians to defend themselves and win this war. The ironic thing here is that this would be very easy for us. It's just not very much money from our
point of view.
The weapons that we send are largely weapons we wouldn't use anyway and would have to decommission. We won't even notice whether we do this or not
from the point of view of domestic politics, but it will change the history of the world. That's the striking thing at the beginning of 2024.
AMANPOUR: So, basically, you're alluding, I think, to political gamesmanship in Congress. And I want to know whether this affects.
Something very optimistic you said a year or so ago, that Russia is in retreat, China has peaked, and Ukraine is going to win. Would you reassess
that statement, given where each of those countries are right now?
SNYDER: I think it's very wise of you to make that connection because it's -- this all depends on us, right? So, you know, the problem with making
predictions is that you have to kind of depend upon what your own people are going to do.
If we continue, we, the U.S., we, the Germans, we, the E.U., continue to supply Ukraine, they will win this war. The narrative now is that things
are going well for Russia, but things are actually going very badly for Russia. They're losing huge numbers of troops. Putin has problems at home.
They can't keep this up indefinitely. The question is whether we can.
And as you say, this has to do not just with Moscow, but with Beijing. If the Chinese see the Americans and the Europeans choosing to lose in Ukraine
for no reason, that is certainly emboldening and certainly increases the risk dramatically of a conflict over Taiwan.
Supporting Ukraine is the easy way for us to reduce the risk of a war with China, and that's one more reason why it's so befuddling that we're not
AMANPOUR: So, I just want to quote you. You've said and you've written, the best China policy is a good Ukraine policy. So, you've just explained
that. You've also written that Putin thinks that he has a better chance in the United States capital than he has in Kyiv. In other words, you know, he
could win the war thanks to, let me quote this, "allies in Washington."
That's pretty serious. What are the actual implications or the facts of a Putin win Ukraine?
SNYDER: Well, I mean, let's -- let me just start with a sort of comparison. I mean, the war in Ukraine is something that we can very easily
help them to win.
AMANPOUR: I know we can, but we're not, Timothy. I'm trying to --
SNYDER: It's a lot like the fire -- there's --
AMANPOUR: I know we can. I know we can.
AMANPOUR: That's why I'm, like many people, so exercised about this moment, but we're not.
AMANPOUR: We are not. In fact, we're doing the opposite. And so, since our leaders have told us that our democracy and the rule of the world depends
on this fight, just explain, let's say, to American viewers what happens if we don't step up and Russia wins? He thinks he's in a good position, Putin,
right now, despite his casualties on the ground.
SNYDER: Well, he thinks that he can persuade congressional Republicans to prevent us from supporting Ukraine long enough for Trump to win. It's
important that Russia's only hope is really an American hope. He's depending upon Americans to win this war.
If we let him win this war, then we will have shown that people who are willing to risk their lives for democracy will be betrayed. We will have
shown that there's really no ethical commitment to democracy from us or around the world. And without that ethical commitment, it's very unlikely
that the people, and ultimately, democracy depends on people, will be taking risks anywhere for it. So, it will be very dark for democracy around
the world if we let Ukrainians lose.
AMANPOUR: And I want to pick up on what you just said, that Putin is betting on Trump winning, to help him, to help him in his war effort and to
create this new world that you've just outlined. What, in your opinion, is the likelihood of Trump winning given everything everybody knows about him?
And what is your reaction to the Supreme Court maybe taking up these state moves to ban Trump from their ballot, let's say Colorado and Maine so far?
SNYDER: Yes. Your point is really important. It's not so much that the Russians are doing well, it's that we're doing badly and the Russians are
counting on that.
So, how are we doing badly? It's bad that Trump might win. I think he's got a decent chance of doing so, not more than 50/50, but a decent chance of
doing so, because Americans have short memories and we're thinking about present things and we're not thinking about the recent past.
It's odd, though that he could be on the ballot at all, because it is clear, the 3rd Section of the 14th Amendment makes it clear that anybody
who takes part in or even gives aid and comfort to an insurrection cannot be a candidate for any state or federal office in the U.S. So, I think that
has to be taken very seriously.
We have rules about who can run and who can't run. And according to these rules, Trump can't. And the decisive part of the Supreme Court says that it
takes -- it pays attention to the actual language of the constitution and the intention of those who wrote the provisions and whether you're an
intentionalist or, you know, whether you're a textualist, it's very clear that the 14th Amendment makes it impossible for Trump to run. So, I think
that's -- we're at a crucial moment there too.
AMANPOUR: Now, going back to the effect of any future president on the U.S. global position, I recently spoke to Fiona Hill who, as you know, was
very prominent testifying against, you know, Trump's Russia and Ukraine policy. And she actually worked for the NSC during his presidency on
Russia. And she's a major expert.
And she told me that the current sort of your coalition of forces arrayed against the United States, and these, you know, confluent crises that the
United States has to deal with. It's actually bad for the U.S. as it's -- you know, as it's partaking. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: This looks like a world with three major fires. Two, you
know, in fully combustible in Ukraine and in the Middle East, and one that's, you know, still simmering and smoldering -- not simmering a fire,
but smoldering and looking, you know, kind of like it also might be ignited in the Indo-Pacific region as well. And we have to keep an eye on all of
these fronts at the same time. The United States' global position is really challenged here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And she went on to say, you know, the U.S. looks like it's being isolated by this coalition arrayed against it and blaming the U.S. for all
SNYDER: I think that's very just. The United States, objectively, is much stronger than its rivals now. I'd say objectively, Russia and China are
actually weaker now than many people have expected. Our problem is our inability to focus and our inability to recognize that our rivals can act
in concert against us. We're like a giant who's not paying attention to anything that's happening around, and a giant like that will eventually be
tripped up and fall.
AMANPOUR: Well, that is -- yes, that's given us something to think about. But can I now just change track a little bit and ask you about how to
combat hate, basically hate speech positions in which, let's say, they're crises in the world and people are forced to take stands, you know, the
pressure of social media, the cancel culture and all of that.
I want to ask you this because a colleague of ours just came back from Amsterdam where she noticed that she came out of the Anne Frank House.
There is a short-animated film based on your book, "On Tyranny." And it's intended for 10- to 15-year-old children. And the Anne Frank Trust here in
England has issued a statement saying they're reaching out to young people, working to provide inclusive responsive education in deeply challenging
times. This, of course, in the wake of the catastrophe in Israel and in Gaza.
What is your reaction to how your book is being used and the best way to try to teach children how to have discourse and how to make decisions?
SNYDER: I think that's a wonderful question because if we talk about democracy being threatened or we talk about power, but ultimately,
democracy is something that people have to want. People have to want to rule themselves. And ruling yourself involves being able to get along with
other people. It involves being able to talk to other people, hearing their own point of view. It's something which is going to happen chiefly, not in
the virtual world, but in the real world.
And that's why the advice on "On Tyranny" begins from things like don't do what everyone else is doing. Don't obey in advance. Don't assume the
institutions will protect you. You have to be able to engage yourself and hear other people if we're going to move along.
It's not the presence of hate speech that troubles me so much, although it does, it's the absence of the other thing. It's the absence of engagement,
of kindness. The absence of the ability to listen, which is something that we do have to work on, especially when we're young.
AMANPOUR: So, you are obviously a very renowned professor at Yale University where you teach history. And you are in the midst now of
watching, maybe it's not happening at your university, but big colleges all over the U.S. are slashing budgets for teaching humanities, liberal arts
and history, and more than half of America's states have passed laws restricting how history can be taught.
Can you see a noticeable effect on students, on people, on civil society and discourse, and even politics?
SNYDER: Absolutely. History is there and the humanities are there to teach us that there are other points of view and those other points of view are
interesting, that the world is rich and that we should appreciate that richness.
When you cut history in the humanities, you're left with people who think, I am always innocent and I am always right. And from that perspective, you
can't build civil society. You can't defend the law and you can't have a democracy. So, absolutely, we're paying the price for losing history in the
humanities, and the people who are taking history in the humanities away from us are perfectly aware of what they're doing.
AMANPOUR: Do you see any way back from that?
SNYDER: Of course. Of course, I do. I mean, in the thousands of years that we've done literature and philosophy and -- in history, there have been --
it's gone up and it's gone down. We have to be aware that we need these things.
We have to be aware that the technology alone isn't enough. We have to be aware that we need capacities to deal with one another. And these
capacities come from the past. They come from thought. They come from books. This is an argument that can be made an argument, that can be one.
Curricula can be changed one way. It can be changed another way.
And I see plenty of young people who are perfectly aware of this. I see plenty of people who are aware that it's not just a matter of defending a
system, it's a matter of showing what's good about the system. So, yes, I do think it can be changed.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm glad to end on that note, but I'm fully aware of the challenges. And thank you so much for your experience and your wisdom and
your knowledge. Thank you so much.
SNYDER: Great pleasure. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And next, something to look forward to this year. A soulful superstar Lenny Kravitz releases new music after 35 years in the business
and four Grammys to boot. Kravitz is now eyeing Oscar glory as his new song "Road to Freedom" hits the shortlist. It was written for the acclaimed film
"Rustin," which tells a story of pioneering civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, you could say the song has already earned the presidential seal of approval from Barack and Michelle Obama, whose company, Higher
Ground, produced the film. And Lenny Kravitz is joining me now from Los Angeles.
Welcome to the program, Lenny Kravitz. Can I start by asking --
LENNY KRAVITZ, MUSICIAN: Good morning. Good morning.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Good morning. It's evening over here around the world. So, it must be pretty early for you there in California. What did you know
about Bayard Rustin when you first, you know, were talked to you about the film and about the score?
KRAVITZ: Well, here's the thing. I knew his name, but I did not know the story. And I was actually embarrassed by that, because I grew up in a
family that was involved in the civil rights movement. And I did not know his story. I did not know his involvement as far as being the architect
behind the march on Washington.
So, I knew when I got the call that this was something that was very important. If I didn't know his story, there's so many that don't. And it
was time that Bayard Rustin was seen and heard and understood.
AMANPOUR: I know. And ever since this film has been out, I guess a lot of people have learned that he was the man behind Martin Luther King's famous
march and really helped to organize it.
AMANPOUR: What about it? How did you -- you wrote the song right? How did you -- what did you feel that you had to convey right out of the box?
KRAVITZ: The spirit of the movement, which, you know, the road to freedom is what all of these great people were on and what Bayard Rustin was on,
and that road continues today. I mean, we're still facing so many of the same issues in a different way, in a different time period, but this road
is endless. We're continually moving boundaries and walls and pushing our way through to try to get to a better world. And so, that's what I wanted
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because reading the research for this interview, I was really stunned by something really important in your life, not just
for you, but for culture itself, American culture?
You are the son of a white Jewish father and a black mother with Bahamian roots. And not only that --
AMANPOUR: -- she, your mother, went on to portray the first -- I think it's the first biracial couple on American television in the Jeffersons.
KRAVITZ: Yes, yes. Yes. I mean, to think that it was 1975 and that was the first interracial couple on primetime television was quite extraordinary.
And the fact that she actually was married to a white man, this is very interesting that that was her lot to play this role, you know.
And when Norman Lear, who just passed recently, gave her the role, he said, I want to make sure that you don't mind playing this role because you're
going to have to be close to this man. He's going to be, you know, kissing you and being close with you, and she pulled out a picture of my father and
he said, I'll see you on Monday.
AMANPOUR: It is such a good story, but it's also bittersweet. And I'm going to get into -- you know, get into that in a moment. But how did that
upbringing and that parentage affect you not just as a person but as a songwriter?
KRAVITZ: Well, I had a very rich childhood because I was able to embrace the different cultures, religions, background. And I felt completely open.
The world was open to me. I had no understanding of boundaries, of prejudice.
And so -- and then, at the same time growing up in New York City in the late '60s, early '70s as a young child I was immersed in music and theater
and art and -- of all kinds. And it was a great education for me. I learned so much about music by just going out with my parents. You know, my parents
could have left me at home. You know, I was a child, but they took me out. They wanted me to see all of this art. And I was quite fortunate.
AMANPOUR: It is actually extraordinary. And as I said in the lead in, I mean, you've had so many successes, so many awards. Now, shortlisted for an
Oscar. And yet, you have complained about, I suppose, you know, a sort of racism, but maybe even within your own community because you complain that
like black TV award shows and the others didn't invite you on.
Well, what do you think? Were you bemused by that? Why do you think that was the case?
KRAVITZ: You know, first of all, I mean, there are so many black people and companies and networks that recognize what I do, but I just think that
because I am rooted in rock and roll, for some reason there's been this odd myth that rock and roll with white music, you know, and obviously we know
the proof that it is not, that it was invented by black people, but it just wasn't as popular.
And I think that, you know, we as black people, we innovate, we create so much that at times we move on from something that we've done. The same
thing happened to jazz really, at a certain point, you know, you go to jazz concert and there were very few black people, you know, the Japanese
embraced it very much.
You know, you go to Japan and, you know, or even in the states, you know, it would be more white people in the audience. Because we move on from what
we created on to the next. And -- but it's all good. It's all good. It's music. At the end of the day, it's music.
AMANPOUR: Right, it's music. And as you correctly point out, black musicians have been pioneers through time immemorial.
So, I want to ask you what you thought of your friend, I think he was your friend at one point, Jann Wenner, who was the founder of Rolling Stone, the
bible for rock and music during the last century. And promoting his book, he told "The New York Times" now infamously that the reason all seven of
his subjects are white men is that there aren't any women or artists of color "articulate enough" on the subject to speak about.
So, how did you feel and did you ever confront him about that?
KRAVITZ: We -- as you say, we've been friends for many years, and I would still call him a friend. I don't have to agree or somebody can have a
moment where they lose their mind, perhaps. But the statement was not true. It was ridiculous. I don't know why he said what he said. You know, I have
no idea. Because this is a very smart human being who created a great institution, you know.
You know, at one time, Rolling Stone was, you know, an amazing, amazing magazine, with great writers and so forth. But I do not understand that. I
cannot explain that to you other than it was completely wrong. And, you know, I wonder how he feels about it today.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, it's truly mystifying, frankly. Let me ask about your upcoming world tour. You're turning 60 in May and you're releasing a
new album, "Blue Electro."
AMANPOUR: I see you go, mm-hmm. Yes, I don't -- do you want me to point that out or not point that out?
KRAVITZ: Oh, I meant -- no, I just meant, it's all good. It's all good.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you've got a new album, "Blue Electric Light," and you have a new single from it, and it's quite racy, Lenny Kravitz. Can I play a
little bit? I don't even know if we're allowed to play the slightly less --
KRAVITZ: Please do. Please do.
AMANPOUR: -- closed bits, but we're going to play a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, faithful viewers of your music videos will want to look at the whole video because we couldn't put all the -- you know, the revealing
shots in, but what is TK421 mean?
KRAVITZ: It actually was a reference from Paul Thomas Anderson movie, who's one of my favorite directors, "Boogie Nights." Where it actually is -
- it's a modification to a stereo system that makes the stereo system better, have more bass, better sound, louder. And so, I just used it as a
metaphor of making something better.
And it's kind of hard to explain, but Paul Thomas Anderson was also referencing "Star Wars" because TK421 was the number name of a
stormtrooper. So, it takes a bit of time to explain, but it's kind of some movie geek references.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you finally, you know, you say your early influences and your favorite band was the Jackson 5. Then, you -- you know,
you moved on to Hendrix and Zeppelin and David Bowie. I'm wondering who your main influences are today and who you see to be influencing yourself.
KRAVITZ: I'm still into the classics. I mean, I listen to everything. I mean, I've been listening to a lot of John Coltrane lately and Miles Davis
and Nina Simone and Bob Dylan and the Stones. And I mean, Aretha Franklin. I mean, I love music. I love music. And I'm continually learning from the
masters, you know.
And as far as who I -- I mean, I know there are people that come up to me and tell me, you know, how they grew on my music and learned, whether it be
a Steve Lacey or a Bruno Mars or, or a Miguel or whomever.
AMANPOUR: Yes. OK.
KRAVITZ: And you know, we're -- it's beautiful. You know, the -- if you live long enough you get to do what those did for you before.
KRAVITZ: You know, so it's wonderful.
AMANPOUR: Well, we wish you good luck on the tour. Thanks for being with us and everybody will be watching for Oscar night and the nominations. So,
good luck with all of it. Lenny Kravitz, thanks for being with us.
KRAVITZ: Thank you. Good to speak with you. Bye-bye.
AMANPOUR: Bye. And next, to a discovery that is changing the world. More than a decade ago, pioneering biochemist, Jennifer Doudna co-invented
CRISPR, the gene editing technology, which earned her a Nobel Prize.
Now, the very first treatment based on CRISPR has been approved in the U.K. and the United States, a landmark decision for treating sickle cell disease
and for the possibilities of the rapidly advancing field. Dr. Doudna joins her biographer, our own Walter Isaacson to discuss what her technology
could mean for the future of how we live, and the potential dangers also of its use or its misuse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jennifer Doudna, welcome back to the show.
JENNIFER DOUDNA, NOBEL LAUREATE, CHEMISTRY AND CHANCELLOR'S CHAIR, BIOMEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES, U.C. BERKELEY: Great to see you, Walter.
ISAACSON: You and your colleagues won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and the perfection of a tool known as CRISPR that allows a
molecule that has RNA and sort of a scissors -- an enzyme that acts like a scissors that can edit, that can cut our DNA. The FDA has approved this for
treatment of sickle cell anemia.
First of all, explain to us how that would work on sickle cell anemia.
DOUDNA: Well, Walter, it's an amazing time. We're seeing a real transformation, I think, in medicine, where now we can edit the actual
cause of the genetic disease, like sickle cell disease, to provide patients with a durable cure.
And in the case of sickle cell, what happens is that it's possible now to permanently turn on the production of a second protein, a protein that is
called fetal hemoglobin, that can protect people that have the sickle cell gene from experiencing disease phenotypes. And so, they basically have an
opportunity to experience a long-term treatment that may ultimately be effectively a cure for this disease. It's really exciting.
ISAACSON: In the book I wrote about you, "The Code Breaker," I have a picture of Victoria Gray, who was the first person on which it would
testing this technology down in Mississippi. You went and you met with her not too long ago. Tell me what that was like and what you learned about
her. This is a real person getting cured of a bad disease because of a technology you created.
DOUDNA: When I met Victoria Gray, it was a truly exciting moment for me as a scientist to see the impact of research and technology on a person's life
and how it can be transformative.
She explained to me how, in her case, sickle cell disease had really controlled her life and made it very difficult for her to work, to be a mom
to her four kids. And now, with this durable treatment with CRISPR, she's able to take back her life. She can go back to school. She's able to work.
And for her, I think it's really been a life-changing experience.
ISAACSON: Totally life-changing, but I think it now costs close to $2 million, because you have to extract the stem cells from the human body and
then reinsert them. It's not something simple. Have you been working on ways to bring down that cost?
DOUDNA: Well, that's right. I mean, I think, you know, for scientists like me, it's a -- you know, it's a moment where we're both very hopeful about
the future, but we also recognize how much work there is still to be done.
And as you point out, the treatment right now is over $2 million a patient. It also requires a long-term treatment that involves hospitalization. And
so, we'd love to find ways to bring down that cost by making it easier to deliver the therapy into patients, maybe some one day not requiring
hospitalization at all, but allowing a onetime injection and also making it possible to distribute this therapy more widely around the world.
ISAACSON: Do you think insurance companies are going to pay $2 million each for everybody with sickle cell?
DOUDNA: Well, Walter, it's an important question. I think we have to do the math and ask how much it costs to treat a patient over their lifetime
with a chronic disease like sickle cell disease or many other genetic disorders versus having a one and done cure for that type of disease. And I
think this is, you know, a very important question that now has to be addressed.
ISAACSON: Well, wait. Do you think it really can be done by math? I mean, what happens if the math says no, let them continue to have the disease?
DOUDNA: Well, it can't be just math, of course. It has to also involve our technical and societal efforts. And we're doing this through the Innovative
Genomics Institute, where I work in the Bay Area to figure out how we can address this challenge technically, for one thing, and also how we can work
with patient groups to help them understand the therapy, how it works, whether it's right for them, and also to advocate for lower costs and
better distribution efforts.
ISAACSON: Now, the way to lower the cost, it would seem, would be just to have a pill or an injection in which this editing tool can go right into
human cells where you want it to. What's the problem with getting it into human cells?
DOUDNA: Well, that's right. And the challenge there is that CRISPR is a big molecule. And we also have to figure out how to get it right to the
cells that need editing and not anywhere else.
As you mentioned, the sickle cell therapy involves editing what are called blood stem cells. These are cells that produce the mature red blood cells
in our bodies and live in our bone marrow. So, right now, the sickle cell treatment involves what is effectively a bone marrow transplant, but we
envision a day when it will be possible to provide a onetime injection that targets the CRISPR molecules directly to those blood stem cells and doesn't
touch any other cells.
ISAACSON: Now, if you do it, you're doing it in a patient right now, but you could, in theory, and in fact in practice, do it in what's called a
germline way, which is in reproductive cells so that you could make edits that would be inherited, and you'd get sickle cell wiped out from whole
families and maybe from the human race.
You've been a little -- very cautious, I should say, about inheritable or germline editing. Do you think we'll eventually get to the place where we
say, let's make inheritable edits so nobody will have sickle cell, not even your children or grandchildren?
DOUDNA: Well, you're right that that could be an approach to be taken in the future. I think today, the technology isn't there yet to use it safely
in that fashion. And as you point out, there's a very profound ethical question to be addressed when we think about using CRISPR in a heritable
fashion, because it truly does change DNA in, you know, future generations. So, we have to be cautious, I think, about that type of use.
ISAACSON: And when would you say we should be willing to cross that line?
DOUDNA: Well, I think it would require several things. First of all, we have to be sure that technically and scientifically the technology would be
safe in that fashion. And we're certainly not there today. Secondly, I think we have to really be quite transparent about the applications of
heritable germline editing. How would we actually decide who is going to use it that way and for what types of indications?
So, this is something that I've been advocating for several years in terms of thinking together about how we use the technology responsibly.
ISAACSON: Well, as you know far too well, a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, who I think took a -- it's in my book, took a selfie with you at Cold
Spring Harbor Labs once, he made inheritable edits in twin girls that were born in China, and the Chinese cracked down on him for a while, but I
notice he's now out of house arrest and back working in the lab again.
Is it going to be possible to keep this genie in the bottle?
DOUDNA: Well, I think what's very important to note about that situation is that there was a true international backlash against his announcement in
2018, which was that he had used CRISPR in two human embryos that were transplanted into a woman to create a pregnancy.
And I think internationally, it was clearly the case that scientists rejected that type of use of CRISPR and decided that this should not be
something to be encouraged. So, I'm heartened by that effort, and I think that, you know, there may be a time in the future when we decide that
germline editing is appropriate, but we're not there today.
ISAACSON: And you've helped convene international groups on this issue. You and David Baltimore and a lot of people. Have the Chinese been
cooperative on this?
DOUDNA: Yes. We've found that Chinese scientists have been quite engaged. They've been interested in working together on this. I think there's an
appreciation that with a powerful tool like CRISPR, we have to work together to ensure that it's used safely in the future.
ISAACSON: Let me talk about a hypothetical, which is if you can do something like fix one letter mutation eventually that causes sickle cell
or do what you did with fetal cells. You could also enhance it. So, I could decide that my blood cells will carry much more oxygen than ordinary
people's and eventually maybe my kid. I could design a kid that would have blood cells that carried more oxygen, be great sprinters, be wonderful
How do we -- or should we try to draw a line between what's treatment for a problem, a disease, and what's enhancement so people can design better
DOUDNA: Well, I'd first like to point out that for the most part, it's not very easy to do the things that you mentioned today, or maybe not possible
because we don't know the genetics well enough to control those kinds of traits.
But as you're indicating, someday we will. And so, we do have to be grappling with the challenge of how we use CRISPR in a safe and ethical
fashion going forward. I don't have any easy answers to that, but I certainly think it requires open discussion and really international
ISAACSON: There's a lot of genetic diseases that we can deal with, and I guess the ones that CRISPR, this gene editing tool we've been talking
about, could be most useful on where they're just simple mutations. One of the simplest being sickle cell, which is just a one letter mutation.
But what other syndromes and maladies are susceptible to gene editing now?
DOUDNA: Well, quite a few. There's a number of diseases that have a single gene that's known to be causative. And ones that come to mind are cystic
fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Huntington's disease, which is a neurodegenerative disease, and there are many others.
So, I think that there are great opportunities going forward with CRISPR if we can figure out this delivery challenge, which is how we get the CRISPR
editing molecules into the right cells of the body.
ISAACSON: You just mentioned Huntington's. Just a god-awful disease. Partly because you don't know you have it usually until after childbearing
age. And so, it just goes down in the families and it's just a death sentence.
Would that be one of the first cases where we might say inheritable edits make moral sense?
DOUDNA: Well, I certainly think that would be the kind of situation where we might come to that conclusion if and when we get to a point where CRISPR
is truly known to be safe to use in germ cells.
ISAACSON: So, tell me about the other diseases. You say muscular dystrophy. Are those ones -- how would they be treated?
DOUDNA: Well, they would be treated using an editing approach that might either correct the disease-causing mutation or make a different change to
the DNA that could mitigate disease. And what's exciting is that CRISPR is not only a tool that can be used as the therapeutic itself, but it can also
be used as a research tool.
And so, what we're seeing right now in the field of scientific research is that more and more CRISPR is integrated into medical research projects
where we can really understand the genetics of disease at a level that will make it possible one day to probably treat them using editing.
ISAACSON: What about Alzheimer's?
DOUDNA: Well, yes, Alzheimer's is, you know, again, a devastating disease. It affects many families. I think one thing to consider there is that as we
understand better the genes that make any of us susceptible to a disease like Alzheimer's, it may in the future be possible to provide preventive
treatment. In other words, editing that would provide protective genes against a disease like Alzheimer's.
ISAACSON: And I noticed that some experiments may be done at Penn, correct me if I'm wrong, involving the eye. Why is that an organ that we can edit
more easily and what could be done there?
DOUDNA: Well, the eye and actually the liver as well are two organs where delivery of CRISPR molecules or other kinds of molecules is relatively
easier than other parts of the body. And for that reason, it's attractive to try to treat genetic eye diseases or liver diseases using the CRISPR
technology because we have strategies today that allow delivery into those organs.
ISAACSON: I notice that you've been working quite a bit on the microbiome. Those of us who maybe eat Greek yogurt are trying to figure out what is the
microbiome. Tell me what it is and why CRISPR could be useful.
DOUDNA: Well, we're all trying to figure out the microbiome, Walter, and also how it connects to human health and disease. But there's increasing
evidence that the bacteria that live in our bodies and actually in our environment as well have an enormous influence on our health and also our
susceptibility to disease.
So, what we're doing today with the CRISPR technology here at the Innovative Genomics Institute is we're using it to make changes, targeted
changes to the microbes that populate the human gut to reduce disease susceptibility and we hope one day to actually provide disease protection.
ISAACSON: You've said that before we encounter a whole lot of CRISPR technologies in our doctor's office, we're going to encounter it a lot more
on our food plate. Tell me what's happening in the field of agriculture with gene editing.
DOUDNA: Well, gene editing will have a huge impact in agriculture. No question. And the reason is that it essentially gives plant breeders a tool
for making precise changes in plants without introducing a lot of other alterations to genes that don't need changing. And as a result, we have now
the way to change plants to provide drought resistance, to increase nutritional value, even to increase yield of crops.
And all of these things are already happening using CRISPR. I think, you know, this will raise questions about, you know, how we regulate or don't
regulate that kind of use of CRISPR. And that's again, a very active area of discussion currently.
ISAACSON: And people talk about genetically modified organisms and GMOs and how they're against them. Are they dangerous if you edit the genes of
plants and animals we eat?
DOUDNA: Well, let's think about it. Everything we eat is genetically modified, going back thousands of years because humans have been breeding
plants for, you know, as long as we've had agriculture. And as a result, everything that we consume has modified genes.
What CRISPR does is simply gives us the tools to make those changes precisely rather than randomly as is currently done.
ISAACSON: So, they could be safer actually?
DOUDNA: I feel they could. Yes.
ISAACSON: One of the disheartening things that happened with COVID was -- well, one of the great things was we found all sorts of ways to treat it
with -- you know, with science and vaccines. But then, there was a backlash, people afraid of the science or people skeptical about it.
One of the reasons I think you cooperated with me on the book I wrote was we wanted to explain exactly how the science works so people wouldn't be as
mystified or afraid of it. Do you think we have to do better communications now that there's been, I think, an undercurrent of anti-science backlash in
DOUDNA: Well, I think it's incredibly important to explain what science is going on, how taxpayer money is used to support research and what benefit
it provides to society. I think we -- maybe we scientists haven't done as good of a job as we should have over the past few decades of explaining
And I think it's maybe even more important now with the social media and the rapidity with which misinformation can flood the internet, for example.
We really need to be sure that we're putting out there real information, real data that's trustworthy so that people know where to get information
they can count on.
ISAACSON: Dr. Jennifer Doudna, thank you once again for being with us.
DOUDNA: Thank you, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you and goodbye from London.