Our CRISPR future, according to J. Doudna

The Nobel Prize for CRISPR is one of the most exciting ever assigned in chemistry and one of the most celebrated in the media, for reasons related to the invention and the inventors alike. On the one hand, the technique is changing the practice and the image of genetic engineering. On the other hand, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier are not merely great scientists; they are a success story in cracking the glass ceiling and a symbol of the strength of collaboration.

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Doudna on CRISPR in agriculture

Credit Ft

Announcing the more than well-deserved prize to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry Claes Gustafsson said: “There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.” However, the media mostly celebrated CRISPR therapeutic applications while forgetting agriculture in the coverage of the Nobel Prize. Yet Doudna has spoken often, and passionately, about what CRISPR can do for sustainable agriculture and did it again at the World CRISPR Day, a few days after the Nobel announcement.

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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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Where is the revived mammoth?

I watched Genesis 2.0, which is debuting in Italy almost two years after its release at the Sundance Film Festival. In the meanwhile, Semyon Grigoriyev has died. The Russian paleontologist leading the effort to clone a mammoth was one of the movie’s main characters. He always had little chance of success, and the plan’s odds are now worse than ever.

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Editing medical cannabis

CanBreed CEO Ido Marga

The Israeli company CanBreed announced that it is ready to edit medical grade cannabis. They aim to develop enhanced seeds, endowed with resistance to powdery mildew for example. But there’s plenty of science to do: despite being a multibillion-dollar business, cannabis can be considered a neglected plant from a research point of view.

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A bold proposal and a cautious report

Let’s imagine a hundred or more citizens from all over the globe, selected to partecipate in a giant focus group aiming to represent world views. It would be an unprecedented social experiment, that’s for sure, but the call is worth considering. The bold proposal comes from a group of social scientists and a few geneticists (George Church included) writing today in Science. Fascinating as it is, this kind of assembly is probably easier said than done. However, the main problem, in my opinion, comes next: what should experts and politicians do with the assembly’s deliberations?

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CRISPR & society, the dialogue resumes

CRISPRcon returns with a series of discussions exploring gene editing’s role in COVID-19 testing and treatment, racial disparities, strategies to address climate change, and more. The panel on gene editing and journalism opens the event, that is free and 100% virtual, on Sept 1. Speakers: Tamar Haspel (Washington Post Columnist), Antonio Regalado (Senior Editor for Biomedicine, MIT Technology Review), Elliot Kirschner (Executive Producer, Human Nature and the Wonder Collaborative). Moderator: Ting Wu (Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School).