WHO’s roadmap on genome editing

A multi-disciplinary panel of 18 experts from all over the world, a two years long consultation, over 150 pages. The much-awaited report of the World Health Organization on human genome editing was delivered on July 12 and is divided into three parts: A framework for governance, Recommendations, and Position Paper. While not legally binding, it is expected to influence both governments and the scientific community, by offering a roadmap based on widely shared ethical principles and usable policy tools.

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CRISPR landmark trial: who said what?

Credit Intellia Therapeutics

Here you can read a selection of notable comments about the landmark paper on in vivo genome-editing published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 26 June. The trial, conducted in the UK and New Zealand, produced the first-ever clinical data supporting the safety and efficacy of intravenous infusion of a single-dose CRISPR treatment. The treatment, developed by two US-based companies (Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals) targets a rare and fatal condition called transthyretin amyloidosis.

Jennifer Doudna (CRISPR co-inventor and co-founder of Intellia): “It’s a critical first step in being able to inactivate, repair, or replace any gene that causes disease, anywhere in the body” (source Science).

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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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CRISPR rising stars

Andrew Anzalone (Broad Institute), Jennifer Hamilton (Berkeley) and Cameron Myhrvold (Princeton)

December is time for rankings and forecasts. Let’s start with STAT News celebrating young talents who could become the next generation of scientific superstars. Three CRISPR researchers appear among STAT wunderkinds. As a postdoc at the Broad Institute, Andrew Anzalone helped make a key advance by developing prime editing, where the same RNA molecule specifies the target and the desired edit. Jennifer Hamilton, from Berkeley, works on solving one of the major hurdles of CRISPR-based therapies: delivering the genome editor to the desired cells. Cameron Myhrvold, has since worked at the Broad Institute on developing CRISPR-based diagnostics such as CARMEN and is about to start his own lab at Princeton.

Breaking or fixing? A tale of two approaches for hemoglobinopathies

Painting by Hertz Nazaire

Covid19 is affecting everyone, but it has hit the sickle cell (SCD) community particularly hard. According to STAT News the pandemic has temporarily stopped clinical trials and the introduction of new drugs, besides directly impacting SCD patients who are at high risk for severe complications from Sars-Cov2 infection and may need hospital assistance for SCD pain crises.

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Knocking out cholesterol

Consider this scenario, depicted in Nature a few years ago. “It’s 2037, and a middle-aged person can walk into a health centre to get a vaccination against cardiovascular disease. The injection targets cells in the liver, tweaking a gene that is involved in regulating cholesterol in the blood. The simple procedure trims cholesterol levels and dramatically reduces the person’s risk of a heart attack”.

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About chromosomal mayhem in edited embryos

Luigi Naldini, SR-Tiget

CRISPeR Frenzy asked Luigi Naldini of the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy in Milan for comment on three studies published in June on the preprint server bioRxiv. The experiments were carried out independently by the groups of Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute in London, Dieter Egli of Columbia University in New York City, and Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. These findings heighten safety concerns about heritable genome editing (see the news item by Heidi Ledford in Nature). Below you can read Naldini’s thoughts.

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When CARMEN met the coronavirus

Say hello to CARMEN: a massively multiplexed, Cas13-based technology for nucleic acid detection, out yesterday in Nature. Its name stands for Combinatorial Arrayed Reactions for Multiplexed Evaluation of Nucleic acids, and it allows us to test many amplified samples for the presence of many viral sequences by using miniaturized detection reactions that self-organize in a microwell array. Sars-Cov2 included.

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