August 26, 2013
By Jan Ambrosini
In the world of science, waves of related discoveries sometimes arrive in sets rather that one at a time. Current advances in genome editing have rolled in on many fronts at once in the past year, in a “cascade of papers” reporting on a “potentially revolutionary genome editing technique,” according to the August 23 issue of Science.
Berkeley faculty members and QB3 faculty affiliates Jennifer Doudna and Dirk Hockemeyer organized a symposium on August 26 to showcase new research in the area, which offers precise genetic manipulation and novel approaches to tackling human disease.
Hosted by QB3-Berkeley in the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, Re-writing Genomes: A New Era in Genome Editing and Engineering drew a crowd of more than 300 people and featured speakers and a poster session. Life Technologies sponsored the event.
Alan Sachs, Chief Scientific Officer/Head of Global Research and Development for Life Technologies, opened the meeting with the view that major advances in drug discovery will flow from these new tools for many decades to come. “For patients, the vast amount of new DNA variation data is not actionable, it’s hypothetical,” said Sachs. “The goal of biology is to functionate this DNA variation so it is no longer a sea of information that no one quite knows what to do with. Gene editing tools will allow for this.”
“What is remarkable about this field is the integration of insights coming from basic biological and biochemical research as well as cell biology and biomedicine,” said Doudna, who credits this integration with the explosion of activity in the field. “We hope this meeting becomes an annual Bay Area event that brings together academic and industry leaders and helps catalyze collaborative projects.”
Hockemeyer echoes Doudna’s enthusiasm for what lies ahead. “It is a really exciting time for genome editing and at this meeting the leaders of the field presented their most recent and unpublished work,” he said. “It’s clear we are entering a new era of genome editing and genetic engineering and UC Berkeley will play a major part in developing these new technologies.”