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Jennifer Doudna | Pioneer

Allen Distinguished Investigator Jennifer Doudna is pioneering the exploration of RNA targeting to manipulate the genome by examining the diverse ways that living microbial hosts guard against viral infection.  

Hailed as the 2015 Breakthrough of the Year by Science magazine, Crispr-Cas9 technology was the outcome of curiosity-driven research conducted by the Doudna and Charpentier laboratories in the United States and Sweden.  Known as Crispr-Cas9 due to its origins as part of a bacterial adaptive immune system, this technology has the potential to cure diseases, improve agriculture, and adapt industrial organisms to produce a wide range of bio-based renewable products.

Editing DNA in human and other eukaryotic cells remains challenging in part because these cells’ genomes are tightly wound around histone proteins in chromatin, creating a physical obstacle to editing many genes of interest.  The team will seek a solution to this hard problem by exploring the many homologues of current editing proteins which exist, including in archaeal systems. By digging into large metagenomics DNA sequencing databases, through the Banfield lab at the University of California, Berkeley, and the DOE Joint Genome Institute, this team will discover new proteins with potential large benefit to gene editing technologies.

The impact of this work could open entirely new ways to edit cells, understand biological function, and make technology to edit genomes more effective, with widespread benefits throughout the fields of medicine and environmental health.  

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