Promoting Homology-directed repair over Non-homologous end joining repair

Chu, V. T., et. al. Nature Biotechnology (2015) 33:543-548.

Homology-directed repair (HDR) allows for insertion of precise sequences into specific locations.  This is desirable when studying the effects of a specific mutation; however it has been difficult to achieve high efficiency of when compared to the non-specific error prone Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair mechanism.  Chu et al. have developed a way to increase HDR editing efficiency by inhibiting the NHEJ pathway through gene silencing.  This technique increased the efficiency of HDR gene editing by approximately eight fold while essentially eliminating NHEJ.

Methods for computational sgRNA design

Chuai,G., et. al. Trends in Biotechnology (2016)

Proper design of the sgRNA can make or break a CRISPR/Cas9 experiment; however there are many different guidelines for sgRNA design.  In silico analysis can use data gathered from previous experiments to predict guide efficiency and possible off-target effects, however many different sgRNA programs have been developed.  This review compares the available sgRNA analysis programs to aid the user in designing sgRNAs.

Mimivirus may not contain a CRISPR-like adaptive immunity system

Tanya Lews, 7 July 2016, The Scientist,

In April of 2015 Levasseur et al. published a Nature Letter claiming that the giant mimivirus contained an adaptive immune system similar to that of the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system.  However in a recent perspective published in Virologica Sinica ( Claverie and Abergel state that “MIMIVIRE is not analogous to the CRISPR-Cas system, does not function via a nucleic acid recognition system, and is unlikely to possess all the attributes of a bona fide adaptive immune system.”  The authors of the original paper dispute this claim stating that the comparison “is an analogy, not a homology.”

The Broad Institute licenses CRISPR/Cas9 to Evotec

Genomeweb, 6 July 2016

In a non-exclusive deal, drug development company Evotec has licensed the CRISPR/Cas9 technology from the Broad Institute.  Evotec will use the technology in drug-development/target identification and with its post-phenotypical screening target deconvolution platform.

CRISPR editing used to determine the mechanism for genome duplication in plants

Schiml et al, PNAS (2016) 113:7266-7271

Duplication of genome sequences is one of the main evolutionary drivers in plants, however the mechanism behind these duplications is not well understood.  By using Cas9 modified to only nick one strand of the DNA Schiml et al where able to induce genome duplications by nicking locations 25 bp-100 bp in length, providing a possible mechanism for genome duplication events.

CRISPR could be harnessed to eliminate latent herpes viruses

Colin Barras, The New Scientist, 30 June 2016

Most people carry some form of herpes virus, and while most are only revealed by cold sores, the virus can cause blindness, birth defects, cancer, and shingles.  Completely eliminating the viruses from an infected host has proven challenging due to its ability to lay dormant.  However gene editing may allow for the blocking of enzymes responsible for Herpes DNA replication, thus effectively destroying the latent viral population.  Currently this technique has been tried in monkey and human cell lines with up to 95% of the viral population being destroyed; however more research is needed before translation to humans.

How morality and ethics governs the Chinese patent process

Yaojin Peng (2016) Nature Biotechnology,

While the focus of CRISPR patents has been on the US battle between the University of California-Berkley and the Broad Institute, other countries patent systems, such as China, have been largely ignored.  Recently many more patent applications have been submitted to the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office.  The number of pending applications and the use of non-viable human embryos in CRISPR experiments have raised questions as to how the Chinese patent system works.  In this article Yaojin Peng describes in detail the kinds of inventions that are allowed to be patented in China and how ethics influences patent decisions.  In particular Peng focuses on the kinds of CRISPR patents that could be awarded and those that would violate Chinese patent law.

CRISPR edited corn could be on the market within 5 years

Emily Waltz, Nature Biotechnology (2016)

The USDA has released two decisions stating that CRISPR edited crops will not be regulated as traditional genetically modified organisms due to their lack of plant pest DNA.  The most recent decision effects DuPont Pioneer’s waxy corn that has been engineered to produce amylopectin.  Amylopectin is a high valued commodity used in processed foods, adhesives, and high gloss paper.  This decision comes after the USDA stated that a mushroom edited to resist browning would not trigger review.

CRISPR gene therapy trial gets approval from the NIH

Sara Reardon, Nature News, 22 June 2016

An NIH advisory board has approved the use of CRISPR gene editing in a small scale cancer therapy trial.  Eighteen patients with various cancers will have their T cells removed and edited using CRISPR before reintroduction.  The T-cells will be edited to detect and destroy cancer cells effectively using the patients own immune system to treat cancer.  This will not be the first use of edited T-cells to target disease.  Previously zinc finger proteins had been used to edit T-cells in HIV patients and TALENS have been used to edit T-cells in cancer therapies.  The use of CRISPR technology is an important step forward as the CRISPR/Cas system could be easily adapted to treat a variety of diseases.

CRISPR Therapeutics partners with Anagenesis Biotechnologies

Press Release, CRISPR Therapeutics,

In an exclusive agreement CRISPR Therapeutics –  founded by Emmanuel Charpentier – has licensed Anagenesis Biotechnologies proprietary paraxial mesodermic multipotent cells (P2MCs).  The P2MC technology allows the differentiation of pluripotent cells into skeletal muscle cells allowing for researcher into CRISPR gene therapies.  CRISPR Therapeutics plans to use the technology to study Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) therapies.