The year 2019 ended with three years in jail sentenced to He Jiankui for illegal medical practice. The CRISPR-baby scandal’s epilogue was applauded on twitter by a few leading scientists such as Craig Venter and Fyodor Urnov and decried on STAT News by the controversial biohacker Josiah Zayner. Most experts, however, stayed silent.
As stressed by the Washington Post, “the judicial proceedings were not public, and outside experts said it is hard to know what to make of the punishment without the release of the full investigative report or extensive knowledge of Chinese law and the conditions under which He will be incarcerated.”
The picture shows a moment in the sample-collecting effort leading to thisPnas paper about a novel heat-tolerant CRISPR enzyme called IgnaviCas9. Exploring nature’s molecular diversity in extreme environmental conditions such as Yellowstone hot springs can yield exciting discoveries and applications.
China is the “Innovation Nation” and “The next biotech superpower”, according to the November issue of Nature Biotechnology. Beijing is “set to challenge the pre-eminence of the US drug market. If it can address gaps in its R&D ecosystem and clinical infrastructure, it may even become a home for biotech innovators”, says the editorial.
While many of us have been enjoying a bit of holiday rest, CRISPR never stopped cutting DNA.
It did it inside smart gels, releasing biomolecules at command and turning electronic circuits into diagnostic devices (see the paper in Scienceand the news in Nature). It did in the bacterial genome, by manipulating large chunks of chromosomes as hoped for by synthetic biologists (see Science). It did it in the Mediterranean fruit fly to unveil sex-determination signals (see Science again) and is busy doing it in sheep to fight lethal child brain disease (as reported by The Guardian). Let’s catch up with the latest CRISPR news!
Doudna meets GSK: University of California CRISPR researchers form drug discovery alliance with pharma giant (source Science) From transposons to gene therapy: Hijack of CRISPR defences by selfish genes holds clinical promise, according to Fyodor Urnov (NatureNews&Views) Disaster waiting to happen: Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies (Nature’s editorial and news)