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?

Continue reading

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-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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.