Brenner, CRISPR and the zebrafish

“Progress in science is driven by new technologies, new discoveries, new ideas – in that order” (S. Brenner). This quote by one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century came to my mind while reading a curious paper recently published in Nature. To sum up, a group from Taiwan has discovered that some cells can divide despite an absence of DNA replication.

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New Genomic Techniques in EU – have your say

Participatory democracy means citizens have a say in the process of policymaking. Here is your chance to contribute to creating an updated, science-based European legal framework for edited plants. You will be asked questions such as: “Should the potential contribution to sustainability of the modified trait of a product be taken into account in new legislation on plants produced by targeted mutagenesis or cisgenesis?”

Wonder wheat, when precision meets serendipity

The powdery mildew-resistant wheat developed earelier this year by a Chinese team led by Caixia Gao is a fruit of human ingenuity and genome-editing precision. However it also deserves a mention in future essays on accidental discoveries such as penicillin.

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Are you ready for CRISPR cats?

The paper “Evolutionary Biology and Gene Editing of Cat Allergen Fel d 1” is a proof of principle but this is only the first step. About 15% of humans have allergic reactions to cats and the major allergen may be nonessential for those animals, given the apparent lack of evolutionary conservation. According to the bioinformatics analysis just published by Nicole Brackett et al. from the US company InBio “Fel d 1 is both a rational and viable candidate for gene deletion, which may profoundly benefit cat allergy sufferers by removing the major allergen at the source”.

CRISPR-babies creator is out of prison. What’s next?

And so He Jiankui has been set free after three years in a Chinese prison. What will become of him? Antonio Regalado from MIT Technology Review is the journalist who made the CRISPR-baby scandal explode in 1998 and is probably the best-informed source right now. Regalado writes that “it’s unclear whether He has plans to return to scientific research in China or another country,” but expects that “he’ll find a place in China’s entrepreneurial biotech scene”. Maybe in a low-profile niche as cloner Woo-Suk Hwang did after falling into disgrace several years ago in South Korea?

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The human genome has no secrets

Twenty-one years after genome 1.0, the Telomere-to-Telomere Consortium gives us a new assembly (T2T-CHM13) generated by long-read sequencing. It adds approximately 200 megabases of accurate genetic information, roughly equivalent to a whole chromosome. As Deanna Church writes in a perspective it is “an important step to assembly models that represent all humans, which will better support personalized medicine, population genome analysis, and genome editing”. Dont’s miss this Science issue!

Koonin, CRISPR and the war

Working with Estonian-American scientist Kira Makarova, in 2002 Eugene Koonin identified the genetic region known as CRISPR-Cas. Three years later his group discovered its natural function. He continues to work on microbial defense systems.

“Science in times of war: oppose Russian aggression but support Russian scientists” is the heartfelt article recently published by Eugene Koonin in EMBO Reports. Koonin is a leading evolutionary molecular biologist and a CRISPR pioneer. Born and raised in Moscow, he left the USSR a few weeks before it dissolved in 1991 and moved to the US where he works at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI-NIH).

He was elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA in 2016 and Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in 2019 but resigned from the second one at the end of February this year. You can read why in the excerpt below, and learn more about his outstanding contribution to science and the CRISPR field in this PNAS profile.

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CRISPR WOMEN – faces and feats


They may have lost the latest round in the patent dispute, but Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier will be forever celebrated as the inventors of CRISPR.
In “The Code Breaker” by Walter Isaacson, Doudna tells how a school’s guidance counselor tried to discourage her from studying chemistry at college: “Girls don’t do science.”
The Nobel prize came a few decades and many brilliant experiments later, it’s the first shared by two women. The institute founded by Doudna (IGI) is now launching an ad hoc incubator specifically to enhance gender equity in bio-entrepreneurship. Jennifer and Emmanuelle are unquestionably great role models for girls interested in science and started a wave of discoveries and inventions by female scientists.
In the slideshow below, you can meet some of the brightest women in CRISPR.

CRISPR diagnostics is coming

Nature was right in choosing CRISPR diagnostic as one of the seven technologies to watch in 2022. The latest news is a test called mCARMEN, described in Nature Medicine. Pardis Sabeti (Broad Institute/Harvard), Cameron Myhrvold (Princeton University) and colleagues adapted a massively multiplexed technology presented in 2020 to be “faster, more sensitive and more easily implemented in clinical and surveillance labs”.

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A promising alternative to CAR-T cells

Engineering lymphocytes to recognize cancer cells is a strategy that has already produced convincing clinical results thanks to CAR-T therapy. But this is not the only approach on the horizon. An emerging alternative is TCR-engineered lymphocytes, where TCR stands for T-cell receptors.

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