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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Uninformed pontification on IQ editing

According to his Twitter bio, Charles Murray is a “Husband, father, social scientist, writer, Madisonian. Or maybe right-wing ideologue, pseudoscientist, evil. Opinions differ.” You may remember him as the co-author of the controversial book “The Bell Curve” (1994), discussing purported connections between race and intelligence. The bad news is that he recently joined the CRISPR debate by tweeting “Gene editing to raise IQ will have a huge market”. The good news is that confutation is easy and a little irony is the best reply (check out Fyodor Urnov’s tweet in the gallery below).

Inside the CRISPR saga

What’s unique about this book are the insights into the relationships between the main characters of the CRISPR saga. The loyal friendship linking Jennifer Doudna and George Church. The growing distrust between Doudna and Zhang. Doudna’s sorrow that she and Charpentier have drifted apart, personally as well as scientifically. The last point is indeed a melancholic note in the Nobel-ending tale. Why did their friendship fall apart?

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Archealization by CRISPR

Credit Muotri Lab/UC San Diego

Alysson Muotri is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. His team is developing lentil-size, Neanderthalized mini-brains by using CRISPR + paleogenomics + organoids. After reading the paper published in Science last February, we asked him a few questions about the experiments of paleo-gene-editing he is doing at the Archealization Center.

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CRISPR walk-up music – the compilation

After reading about the 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards in the book by Kevin Davies, I rushed online to listen to the walk-up music chosen by the CRISPR pioneers as they head to the stage to accept their award. Then I cut and pasted their songs and dance moves. So enjoy Jennifer Doudna dancing On the sunny side of the street, Rodolphe Barrangou pirouetting at the rhythm of Happy, Philippe Horvath going wild with Mission Impossible. And guess which is the song selected by Emmanuelle Charpentier? No spoiler, but the lyrics added at the end truly suits the CRISPR technological (r)evolution!

CRISPR Ikea-style

Modular design is the latest trend for developing new CRISPR tools. In The CRISPR Journal, Juan Carlos Collantes et al. present a base-editor system called Pin-point that recruits a DNA base-modifying enzyme through a hook (an RNA aptamer) within the guide-RNA molecule. In Nature Communications the goal of Lacramioara Bintu and colleagues is not base editing but epigenomic editing, the effector is a chromatin regulator and the hook is an antibody. When the CRISPR-effector combo is big, delivery of individual modules is easier. Furthermore, if the effector is already present inside the cell it can be simply recruited by providing the right hook. One more potential advantage is the convenient reconfiguration of the system by the mix and match of individual components and simultaneous recruitment of different effectors to different target sites.

CRISPR-based Covid tests: what’s going on?

Doudna’s creature (Mammoth Biosciences) and Zhang’s company (Sherlock Biosciences) are developing CRISPR-based coronavirus tests similar to a home pregnancy test: portable, cheap, fast, and simple. Both will be easily adapted to detect any new emerging virus. Both received emergency use authorizations in the US in the fall of 2020 and hope to enter the market by the end of 2021. According to this piece by Walter Isaacson, competition is hot but all the intellectual property questions have been put aside for common good.

Crispy weekend reads

This is an issue for all tastes and interests. Don’t miss (Broken) Promises of Sustainable Food and Agriculture through New Biotechnologies by Todd Kuiken, Rodolphe Barrangou and Khara Grieger; A Code of Ethics for Gene Drive Research by George Annas and other members of the Controlling and Countering Gene Editing in Mosquitoes research project funded by the DARPA Safe Genes program; The Cas9 Hammer and the Sickle by Fyodor Urnov.