Jennifer Doudna Talks CRISPR on Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly

Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, NBC, 11 June 2017, http://www.nbcnews.com/megyn-kelly/video/life-changer-965215299885

On Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Jennifer Doudna describes how the CRISPR system functions and how she got her start in science.  The piece doesn’t stop there but travels around the country interviewing different researchers working in plant science and human health demonstrating the potential the CRISPR system has to drastically change the human experience.

CRISPR Startups Fight Back Against CRISPR Off-Target Report

Antonio Regalado, 9 June 2017, MIT Technology Review, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608073/gene-editing-companies-hit-back-at-paper-that-criticized-crispr/

In response to the Nature Methods Letter outlining potential off-target effects introduced by CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, Intellia Therapeutics and Editas medicine have penned separate letters to the journal outlining their concerns with the report.  Nessan Bermingham, CEO of Intellia, went so far as to call on Nature Methods to retract the Letter, “given the issues around the design and interpretation.”  Nature Methods has stated that they are considering the concerns and discussing them with the authors.

Explaining CRISPR in Ever More Complicated Ways

Wired, 24 May 2017, https://www.wired.com/video/2017/05/biologist-explains-one-concept-in-5-levels-of-difficulty-crispr/

Nevill Sanjana, biologist at New York University and the New York Genome Center, explains CRISPR to a child, teen, college student, graduate student, and post-doctoral researcher increasing the level of complexity each time.

CRISPR Corrects Tomato Breeding Mistake

Heidi Ledford, Nature News 18 May 2017, https://www.nature.com/news/fixing-the-tomato-crispr-edits-correct-plant-breeding-snafu-1.22018

Tomatoes have been bred for their large fruit over thousands of years.  To prevent the tomato from dropping mature fruit, breeders in the 1950s crossed the modern tomato with a wild variety discovered in the Galapagos that lacked the weak region of the stem responsible for fruit dropping.  While this trait functioned in the new cross, it also resulted in extra branches that produced flowers, draining the plants resources.  By sequencing many tomato varieties, scientists have now identified the genes responsible for both traits and are using CRISPR to modify the tomato for better yields and fruit retention.

Could CRISPR Save US Citrus Farms?

Heidi Ledford, Nature News, 16 May 2017, https://www.nature.com/news/geneticists-enlist-engineered-virus-and-crispr-to-battle-citrus-disease-1.21997

American Citrus farmers are facing two threats to their crops, the citrus tristeza virus and citrus greening.  Citrus greening is the result of a bacterial infection that causes bitter, misshapen fruits with green lower halves.  To stop the spread of citrus greening, scientists are attempting to use CRISPR/Cas to modify the citrus trees for increased resistance.  Local growers have even helped fund a project to sequence the citrus trees to help identify potential targets.

Beacon Genomics to Commercialize Genome-Wide CRISPR Off-Target Screens

Monica Heger, GenomeWeb, 12 May 2017, https://www.genomeweb.com/sequencing/beacon-genomics-aims-commercialize-technologies-gene-editing-safety

CRISPR off-target effects is of significant concern during the transition of the system from a basic research tool to clinical settings.  The startup Beacon Genomics aims to aid in this process by offering NGS based, off-target screens: GUIDE-seq and CIRCLE-seq.  These non-biased methods rapidly screen the entire genome for potential off-target effects, enabling researchers and clinicians to optimize CRISPR/Cas treatment conditions.

Biology Needs a National Strategy

Amy Webb, Wired, 11 May 2017, https://www.wired.com/2017/05/crispr-makes-clear-us-needs-biology-strategy-fast/

With the fast pace of CRISPR technology, the regulations and laws governing biology research cannot keep up.  This has become apparent with CRISPR genome editing. Despite the potential applications in research, medicine, and agriculture, control over how CRISPR technology is applied is determined by patent control.  In this opinion piece Amy Webb proposes that the United States needs a non-partisan panel of scientists, technologies, ethicists, policy experts, and futurists to develop strategic plans for biology.

New CRISPR Clinical Trial

GenomeWeb 28 April 2017 https://www.genomeweb.com/scan/another-crispr-trial-begins

Chinese researchers are starting a clinical trial investigating use of CRISPR/Cas9 in cancer therapy.  Patients with aggressive gastric cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and lymphoma will have their own modified immune cells reinjected in the hope that they will target and destroy cancer cells.

CRISPR Pill Could Replace Antibiotics

Emily Mullin, MIT Technology Review, 17 April 2017, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604126/edible-crispr-could-replace-antibiotics/

Traditional antibiotics not only target human pathogens, but eliminate much of the gut microbiome.  Delivery of a bacteriophage containing a customized CRISPR message to the site of infection could target only specific pathogenic bacteria, thus reducing or even eliminating negative effects on beneficial bacteria.  These types of tools may someday replace our current antibiotics, though there is still years of research ahead before this reaches consumers.

New startup company eGenesis looks to pigs for transplant organs

Karen Weintraub, 16 March 2017, MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603857/crispr-may-speed-pig-to-human-transplants/

A new startup company, eGenesis, from Harvard Medical School’s George Church, is working to modify pigs to create organs suitable for transplant into humans.  The startup will be taking a two-pronged approach; one line of pigs will be developed to lack risky viruses and a second line will be modified to have a “humanized” immune system.  The two lines will then be merged into a single line for further study.  While this approach holds promise, years of testing and clinical trials will be needed before widespread adoption.