About Anna Meldolesi

science writer

CRISPR sci-fi, welcome to the post-identity world


It’s 2045; the Gene Revolution is changing humanity. The US has lost its technological crown, and the biotech capital of the world is now Singapore. In Change Agent, the techno-thriller by Daniel Suarez, the night is lit by bioluminescent trees, children play with neotenic pets, drug addicts enjoy custom highs, specialized for their individual DNA. International law prohibits human edits beyond those designed to correct a short UN-approved list of genetic diseases. But a few years after ratification, the UN Treaty on Genetic Modification is already a dead letter. Continue reading

Editing tobacco for drugs rather than cigs

newcotiana tobacco plantsSmoking is an addiction; tobacco, however, is a model plant full of virtues. Docile to biotech interventions, metabolically exuberant, able to churn out plenty of proteins. Now it has attracted 7.2 million euros through an EU research project aiming to harvest biopharmaceuticals by harnessing the power of photosynthesis and new plant breeding techniques. Continue reading

CRISPR stocks, what’s boiling in the pot?

crispr stockUp and down, following the excitement for the latest scientific exploit or frustration for disappointing results. CRISPR is young but already knows how volatile is the market. “Preprint wipes millions off CRISPR companies’ stocks,” cries the March issue of Nature Biotechnology. Continue reading

xCas9: CRISPR gets easy-going

pam sequenceCRISPR needs to anchor itself near a short sequence called PAM to do its job. In the book “Modern Prometheus” (Cambridge University Press) James Kozubek says a PAM is like a shoehorn, where the Cas9 nuclease begins to clasp down to recognize the right site and cut. In order to fit every gene, a super-adjustable shoehorn would be needed. Think of it as the equivalent of a bump key that can open any door. A Broad Institute group led by David Liu has almost reached the goal with xCas9, the new super-adjustable Cas9 variant described in Nature this week. Continue reading

China vs USA: who leads the CRISPR race?

China vs US

The first human CRISPR trial approved in the United States is finally recruiting the first patient. In the meantime trials have grown to a dozen in China, considering those revealed by the Wall Street Journal inquiry besides the NIH database (check also this npr article for further details). Over 80 Chinese patients are already receiving a CRISPR-based treatment, while US researchers cautiously plan to test the safety of their experimental therapy on a single subject, and, if everything goes right, two more patients will be treated a month later. Is the West losing its genome-editing edge to Beijing? Continue reading

Playing a three of CRISPR kind

three acesIt is Science but it could be mistaken for The CRISPR Journal. The latest issue indeed runs three papers by three CRISPR aces – David Liu, Jennifer Doudna, and Feng Zhang – about the cutting-edge fields of biological recorders and advanced diagnostic tests. Continue reading