The ever-expanding CRISPR toolbox

Credit: Mon Oo Yee/Innovative Genomics Institute

The list of the latest additions since the beginning of September is impressive. They are called CasMINI (see Molecular Cell), Cas7-11 (see Nature), OMEGAs (see Science), and come respectively from Stanford University (Stanley Qi Lab), MIT (McGovern Institute), and the Broad Institute (Zhang Lab). CasMINI is half the size of Cas9 and could be much easier to deliver. Cas7-11 is the Cas9 of RNA. OMEGAs are a new class of widespread RNA-guided enzymes, thought to be the ancestors of CRISPR.

The CRISPR Journal was right about expanding the CRISPR toolbox: the original success of the nimble Cas9 nuclease prompted the engineering of variants and the development of homologs, siblings and distant cousins for manipulation of genomes, transcriptomes, and epigenomes.

“The ongoing discovery of novel variants from microbial, even viral, genomic dark matter, and the sharpening of these molecular machines by mutagenesis, screening, and rational design” is giving rise to “a multitude of CRISPR-derived tools that have enhanced and democratized genome editing”.

Let me just add that according to an analysis published in Nature Biotechnology there are almost a thousand CRISPR patents in the ‘technical improvements’ category (45% of the whole cake of CRISPR patents). It is too bad that Europe is falling behind in this category, with the US still a leader for CRISPR improvements (479 patents compiled in this category) and China as the second-largest depositor (over 300 patents). 

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