About Anna Meldolesi

science writer

Nobel & Nobel – out of the ivory tower

Frances Arnold (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2018 for the directed evolution of enzymes) and Jennifer Doudna (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2020 for the invention of CRISPR)

They are two of only seven women who have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. At the Spark 2021 conference, they chatted about ethics, being women in science, the future of research, and much more. Frances Arnold was the interviewer and Jennifer Doudna the interviewee. The following is an extract of their conversation, dealing with the challenge of starting companies while running a top academic lab.

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CRISPR digital folklore

If you think science is boring, think again. The American cartoonist Randall Munroe drew a webcomic called Types of scientific paper and several scientists jumped on the bandwagon adapting the idea to their field. Here are “Types of genome editing paper” and “Types of CRISPR paper”. You can find more on Twitter (Types of bioethics/chemical biology/plant science/…).

Toward an NIH-validated CRISPR toolkit

The Somatic Cell Genome Editing (SCGE) Consortium is working to accelerate the development of better methods of editing. Seventy-two principal investigators from 38 institutions are pursuing 45 distinct but well-integrated projects, funded by the US National Institutes of Health with US$190 million over 6 years. A perspective published in Nature details their plans:

“New genome editors, delivery technologies and methods for tracking edited cells in vivo, as well as newly developed animal models and human biological systems, will be assembled—along with validated datasets—into an SCGE Toolkit, which will be disseminated widely to the biomedical research community. We visualize this toolkit—and the knowledge generated by its applications—as a means to accelerate the clinical development of new therapies for a wide range of conditions”.

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.

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Uninformed pontification on IQ editing

According to his Twitter bio, Charles Murray is a “Husband, father, social scientist, writer, Madisonian. Or maybe right-wing ideologue, pseudoscientist, evil. Opinions differ.” You may remember him as the co-author of the controversial book “The Bell Curve” (1994), discussing purported connections between race and intelligence. The bad news is that he recently joined the CRISPR debate by tweeting “Gene editing to raise IQ will have a huge market”. The good news is that confutation is easy and a little irony is the best reply (check out Fyodor Urnov’s tweet in the gallery below).

Inside the CRISPR saga

What’s unique about this book are the insights into the relationships between the main characters of the CRISPR saga. The loyal friendship linking Jennifer Doudna and George Church. The growing distrust between Doudna and Zhang. Doudna’s sorrow that she and Charpentier have drifted apart, personally as well as scientifically. The last point is indeed a melancholic note in the Nobel-ending tale. Why did their friendship fall apart?

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Archealization by CRISPR

Credit Muotri Lab/UC San Diego

Alysson Muotri is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. His team is developing lentil-size, Neanderthalized mini-brains by using CRISPR + paleogenomics + organoids. After reading the paper published in Science last February, we asked him a few questions about the experiments of paleo-gene-editing he is doing at the Archealization Center.

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CRISPR walk-up music – the compilation

After reading about the 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards in the book by Kevin Davies, I rushed online to listen to the walk-up music chosen by the CRISPR pioneers as they head to the stage to accept their award. Then I cut and pasted their songs and dance moves. So enjoy Jennifer Doudna dancing On the sunny side of the street, Rodolphe Barrangou pirouetting at the rhythm of Happy, Philippe Horvath going wild with Mission Impossible. And guess which is the song selected by Emmanuelle Charpentier? No spoiler, but the lyrics added at the end truly suits the CRISPR technological (r)evolution!