CRISPR antivirals, where are we now?

CRISPR-based diagnostic tests for Sars-Cov2 are coming, as you probably know. But what about CRISPR-based antiviral therapy? It would seem a natural outcome for a technology inspired by the way many bacteria fight their viruses. Indeed this kind of research is being pursued in a handful of labs, using a CRISPR enzyme targeting RNA instead of DNA.

The first studies showing the potential of Cas13 for degrading the genome of RNA viruses in a dish were done independently at the Broad Institute and Stanford University. More recently an animal study published in Nature Biotechnology has shown that the strategy may work also in living organisms such as mice and hamsters. The prospect of using a nebulizer to inhale anti-viral therapeutics that can be preprogrammed to combat potentially almost any flu strain and many other respiratory viruses is exciting. To learn more, please read the paper by Philip Santangelo and colleagues (Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University), and the blog of NIH director Francis Collins.   

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