Gender equity meets CRISPR

Navneet Matharu, Jenny Hamilton and Lin Du

The Women in Enterprising Science Program (WIES) is located on the UC Berkeley campus and is supported by the foundation of Solina Chau Hoi Shuen (co-founder of Horizons Ventures in Hong Kong). The initiative, aiming to enhance gender equity in bio-entrepreneurship, was presented last March by IGI, the institute founded by Jennifer Doudna. In the pictures above you can see the inaugural cohort of fellows, announced this month.

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Cholesterol down – ready set edit!

Last week Verve Therapeutics dosed the first patient with a candidate treatment for hypercholesterolemia. This is exciting news for a couple of reasons. First, the technology used: CRISPR 2.0, i.e., base-editing is hitting the clinic (see the news in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery). Second, this is a leap forward into common diseases (“CRISPR for the masses”, says The Washington Post) and a training session for the real challenge, which is to “stop the biggest killer on Earth”, cardiovascular disease (MIT Technology Review).

CRISPR children, how are they?

Credit: Stefano Navarrini, Innovative Genomics Institute, Anna Meldolesi

Lulu and Nana are three years old. Amy is the name Nature Biotechnology uses to refer to the third CRISPR baby, born in late spring-early summer 2019. Their health is a closely held secret, that Vivien Marx has investigated for the journal’s December issue. “A full understanding of the health risks faced by the children due to their edited genomes may lie beyond the reach of current technology”, she writes. Despite or maybe because of that, the news feature is well worth reading. Below are a few points:

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CRISPR in the news

CAR-T cell therapy meets CRISPR. See the results from the first US trial of gene editing in patients with advanced cancer, just published by Carl June and colleagues in Science, together with a perspective by Jennifer Hamilton and Jennifer Doudna and a piece of news by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel. We still don’t know if edited T cells are effective against cancer, but this Phase 1 clinical trial suggests the approach is safe and feasible.
RNA editing takes off. Take a look at the news feature by Sara Reardon in Nature. It’s a four pages introduction to ADAR, an alternative to CRISPR for flexible, reversible therapies.

CRISPR-baby sentence, too little info to comment?

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.”

CRISPR at its hottest

Source AddGene blog

The picture shows a moment in the sample-collecting effort leading to this Pnas 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.

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Nature Biotechnology features the explosion of Chinese biotech

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

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Crazy 4 Prime Editing

Great piece of science by the Liu Lab in Nature, describing the brand new “Search-and-replace genome editing without double-strand breaks or donor DNA”. How is the CRISPR community reacting?

Best quote: “One of those ‘Yay, science!!!’ kind of moments” (Fyodor Urnov quoted in Science)

Most ironic: “Congratulations @davidrliu. We’d probably have published this paper as well (The CRISPR Journal tweet)

Best title: Genome Editing Heads to Primetime (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News)

Most understated: A New Gene Editing Tool Could Make CRISPR More Precise (Smithsonian Mag)

Most hyped: A New CRISPR Technique Could Fix Almost All Genetic Diseases (Wired)