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.

The Nobel Lectures and CRISPR Casɸ

Chemistry laureates Emmanuelle Chapentier and Jennifer Doudna showing their Nobel Prize medals Credit: Nobel Prize Outreach

Here you can watch le Nobel Lectures by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. Emmanuelle is very focused and très, très chic, oui. Jennifer is generous with credits to colleagues and willing to represent the public conscience of genomic editing. The thing I liked most is the reference to CRISPR-Casɸ: a hypercompact genome editor found in huge phages. Probably it evolved to target the genes of competing phages inside bacterial hosts.

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It’s Nobel Week, let’s party

Traditionally the Nobel Laureates travel to Stockholm to receive their prizes. This year the prizes are coming to them. On 7 December, 19.00 CET, the diploma and medal will be presented to Emmanuelle Charpentier at the Swedish Ambassador’s Residence in Berlin. On 8 December, 16.00 PST, it’s Jennifer Doudna’s turn at the Residence of Barbro Osher, Honorary Consul General in San Francisco. Also on 8 December, 11-13 CET, we can watch online the Academy’s official Nobel Lectures 2020For the development of a method for genome editing, by Emmanuelle Charpentier, and The Chemistry of CRISPR: Editing the Code of Life, by Jennifer A. Doudna. Full programme here.

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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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 weekly picks

read-the-newsDoudna 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 (Nature News&Views)
Disaster waiting to happen: Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies (Nature’s editorial and news)

The M-word and a CRISPR divorce

French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier (L) and professor Jennifer Doudna of the U.S. pose for the media during a visit to a painting exhibition by children about the genome, at the San Francisco park in OviedoWhere is Jennifer Doudna? This is the first thought most journalists had – me included – when reading the list of signatories to the call for the moratorium on heritable genome editing just published by Nature. The Boston team is well represented by Lander, Zhang and Liu (nobody would expect George Church to join that call). But the magnificent couple Doudna-Charpentier has conspicuously split up. Continue reading