Programmable DNA cleavage using CRISPR-Cas9 enables efficient, site-specific genome engineering in single cells and whole organisms. In the research arena, versatile CRISPR-enabled genome editing has been used in various ways, such as controlling transcription, modifying epigenomes, conducting genome-wide screens and imaging chromosomes. CRISPR systems are already being used to alleviate genetic disorders in animals and are likely to be employed soon in the clinic to treat human diseases of the eye and blood. Two clinical trials using CRISPR-Cas9 for targeted cancer therapies have been approved in China and the United States. Beyond biomedical applications, these tools are now being used to expedite crop and livestock breeding, engineer new antimicrobials and control disease-carrying insects with gene drives.