CRISPR


Inside the World of Genome Engineering at Amyris with Kirsten Benjamin, VP of R&D

If a company knows genome engineering, that would be Emeryville based Amyris, the Bay Area's crown jewel for synthetic biology. Founded back in 2003, the company first worked on creating biofuels from yeast. Today they have retooled their platform to produce a diversified line of consumer products that have not only rewarded their bottom line but point the world to a model of sustainable consumer goods.

Today we talk with VP of R & D, Kristen Benjamin about the change over to the skin and beauty care products and the core ingredient of that product line, squalene, a substance that used to be farmed from shark liver. Kirsten was on the front lines of the pivot and takes us into the world of genome engineering at Amyris. New tools have made scaling up much easier today, thanks to a partnership with Inscripta for use of the new Onyx platform announced just this week.

The CRISPR Saga with Kevin Davies

A discovery here. A paper there. An important paper gets passed over. A fortuitous encounter in a coffee shop among two ambitious scientists. A yogurt company just being a yogurt company. Science moves forward in fits and starts.

By the time we read the headline in the paper, “breakthrough of the year,” it can have an inevitable quality about it. Then, in a few years, the historian comes and shows us just how random, messy, and, yes, how beautiful is the business of science.

Kevin Davies, Executive Editor of the CRISPR Journal and author of several books on DNA, joins us for our final program of the year to talk about his latest opus, Editing Humanity: The CRISPR Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing. Prefacing it with his trip to the historic Hong Kong conference where He Jiankui made his infamous #CRISPRbabies presentation, Kevin is the first out with such a complete and entertaining chronicle of the CRISPR saga, its legendary characters, its taunting promises, and its daunting challenges.

Using CRISPR Genome Editing Tools, Willow Biosciences out with First Synthetic Cannabinoid

We see this new ingredient appearing advertised and in products everywhere. On the billboards, in the new shops next to our favorite restaurant, on the counters at the barbershop and when we pick up our prescriptions at the pharmacy.

C-B-D.

It has to do with the ongoing revolution that’s happening around the country—around the world—regarding the deregulation of marijuana. But there’s another revolution that will change our consumption of cannabinoids. That of synthetic biology.

Biologists, chemists, and engineers will be providing us CBD in more pure and larger quantities at a much cheaper price synthetically than farmers will. It will come in many of the products we use, including nutraceuticals, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals.

Chris Savile joins us today. He’s the Chief Operating Officer at Willow Biosciences, a Canadian biotech company that began producing it’s first synthetic cannabinoid earlier this month. Interestingly, it is not CBD, but rather CBG or cannabigerol. Did you know there are over a hundred cannabinoids, and CBG cannot be isolated by traditionally farming?

Join us to learn how new CRISPR based whole genome editing tools are enabling a new industry to develop.

The Gene Edited Babies Saga - A Year Later with Hank Greely

On November 25th, 2018, the world was shocked to find out a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, had edited the germline of twin girls-and the twins had been born. Many in the scientific community remember that Sunday afternoon well as the story broke on MIT's Tech Review, "EXCLUSIVE: Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies."

Today’s guest can even tell you what he had for dinner that Sunday and just what was his reaction. "Holy Shit!"

Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford and author of "The End of Sex: the Future of Human Reproduction", has followed the “CRISPR baby” story just about as close as anyone we know. He joins us today to look back on that momentous week and reflect.

What was his and the scientific community’s immediate reaction? Now, a year later, what have we learned? How has the story evolved? And what is the future of germline editing?

"What strikes me most is the arrogance, the hubris, the foolishness, of He thinking he's going to be able to do this and be acclaimed as a hero. And maybe it wouldn't be immediately, but he would be Galileo who would ultimately be recognized as being ahead of his time. I think he was criminally reckless and so full of his own dreams and glory that he risked the lives and health of babies. And that's unforgivable to me."

October 2019 Review with Nathan and Laura: Prime Editing, Vertex Win, and ASHG

Our Halloween show this year summarizing October’s genomics news has more tricks and treats than spooks and scares. It’s Nathan and Laura back to sift through a big month of happenings from the cool CRISPR upgrade to Inscripta’s bold move in gene editing to Ancestry.com’s shift into health testing.

It’s all here, right now, on Mendelspod.

Genomics Going from a Passive to an Active Science: John Stuelpnagel on the “Write” Revolution

Not many people have had quite the same view on the genomics revolution as John Stuelpnagel. He co-founded Illumina, Ariosa, and Fabric Genomics (formerly Omicia). And he’s the Chairman of Fabric, 10X Genomics, and Inscripta. And not all had the foresight John did that biology would turn out to be so complex.

John is our guest today to preview and describe what he calls the new “writing” phase of genomics, which he says is already underway.

“Genomics has been mostly—and I hope I don’t offend the audience—a passive science. We’re limited by our cohort sets that we can put together. I think the next level of biological discovery is going to be where you can actively perturb the system—it’s called a cell—and then ask what kind of phenotype did we generate."

It’s a fascinating look ahead from one who not only founded some genomics tools companies, but founded several of THE genomics tools companies.

January 2019 Review with Nathan and Laura: Cloning, CRISPRing, DTC, and Paleogenomic Overreach

Nathan and Laura are back for the first time this year for a wild trip past cloned CRISPRd monkeys and the first gene drive in mammals. (Just that?) But first we have to deal with our hangover from the end of last year.

We talk DTC and end with a discussion of the ancient DNA controversy.

A Few Notes on Tomorrow's Holiday Special with Sci-Fi Writer Kim Stanley Robinson on the Gene Edited Baby Story

It was the headline of the decade in genomics. Humans had monkeyed with their own gene pool.

When Chinese scientist He Jiankui came to the podium at the 2nd International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong last month, journalist Kevin Davies, author of “The $1,000 Genome” wrote that he hadn’t seen as much press coverage of a genomics event since the announcement of the sequencing of the human genome. Genomics journalists have been in a tailspin.

Not to mention genomics podcasters.

George Church Has a Point. Do With the Messenger What You Will, Lulu and Nana Are Here.

When we first encounter Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s classic, the scientist has lost all his friends, his wife, his meaning in life because of his science. Now he is frozen half to death out on the sea ice chasing his creation of “gigantic stature” toward the North Pole. It’s the only thing he knows to do. Monster and creator, they are locked in an obsessive battle of existence, creation and loss, birth and death. They both know one thing surely. They have known it all along. There is no going back.



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