The best of Human Nature, the film about CRISPR

Here is a semi-serious selection of the things that I liked the most in the documentary by Adam Bolt (please see the gallery’s caption to know why)

The CRISPRmobile driven by Rodolphe Barrangou (the CRISPR journal’s editor-in-chief); Fyodor Urnov’s communication skills (and t-shirt); Francisco Mojica replaying his seminal experiment in Spain; Alta Charo’s Star Trek-inspired bio-optimism; Vladimir Putin representing the voice of bio-pessimism (“it may be more terrifying than a nuclear bomb” he said at the World Youth Festival in Sochi, 21 October 2017); Ruthie and David playing basketball while their relatives worry about their health problems; last but not least the movie’s real star, the gorgeous Cas9!

Picks of the week

The ethics of using CRISPR to improve the odds of savior siblings. This is when a couple tries to have another baby who is both healthy and a suitable donor “match” for their older kid (“Could editing the DNA of embryos with CRISPR help save people who are already alive?“, STAT News, Sept. 16).

Carl Zimmer explaining a CRISPR experiment carried out to understand why many cancer drugs fail (“Why Aren’t Cancer Drugs Better? The Targets Might Be Wrong”, New York Times, Sept. 11; see also the paper in Science Translational Medicine)

What you missed this August

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 Science and 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!

CRISPR patents by numbers

CRISPR patent landscape IPStudies
Number of applications for new patent families filed worldwide. Data from 2018 and 2019 are incomplete. Due to a lag in the publication of US filings, most of the applications included in the tally are in China. [Credit IPStudies/The Scientist]

According to IPStudies, over 12,000 CRISPR patent applications have been filed worldwide, falling into about 4,600 patent familiesThe number of issued patents is still impressive, more than 740 to date. More than half have been awarded in just two countries. Can you guess where?

China and the US, of course. Players dominating the patent landscape are the University of California and the Broad Institute – where CRISPR was respectively invented and adapted for genome editing in eukaryotes – the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the US company DuPont and the Massachusetts-based biotech firm Editas Medicine.

The struggle between UC and Broad over the standard Cas9 system is still on and is pushing the development of alternatives. CRISPR enzymes now come in approximately 50 different types, including Cpf1, C2c2,  and CasY.

The partial score at the US and the EU patent offices is 34 patents granted to the Boston team and 10 to Berkeley. To learn more, read The Scientist.

Modulation better than correction. A new CRISPR paradigm is emerging

ronald-cohn3
Ronald Cohn (SickKids)

Another CRISPR step in the way out of congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A (MDC1A) is announced by Ronald Cohn and colleagues in Nature this week. This is still preclinical research in mice, but the indirect approach presented by the Canadian team holds great promise.

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