Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

SEP15 2017

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) is the world's most widely read biotech publication. It provides the R&D community with critical information on the tools, technologies, and trends that drive the biotech industry.

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Kathy Liszewski Once the domain of science fiction, today's facial-recog- nition systems easily crunch camera data using sophis- ticated algorithms that define general features, gender, and even mood. However, more than 50 years ago, the first forays into digital-image processing involved the analysis of cell images, not faces. In the 1960's, Judith M.S. Prewitt and colleagues described the use of com- puterized imagery for the morphological analysis of cells and chromosomes. The last decade has witnessed great strides in the digitization of traditional microscopy using whole-slide imaging. Today, this technology is quietly revolution- izing even the most complex areas of pathology. In- deed, the field of computational pathology is a moving target Big Data from Images of Tiny Tissue Samples Such technologies, scientists have long proposed, could exploit translocation mechanisms to prevent, contain, and eradicate vector-borne infectious diseases, some of which are global public health emergencies. An especially interesting possibility was introduced back in 2003, when Austin Burt, Ph.D., an evolution- ary geneticist at Imperial College London, described how site-specific "selfish genes," such as homing endo- nuclease genes, could be engineered to target new host sequences and skew population sex ratios. At the time, Dr. Burt's suggestion could not be tested because a convenient means of retargeting self- ish elements didn't exist. Such a means, however, has come to the fore in recent years. It is, of course, the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology. It is already being used to construct gene drives that could be used to spread desirable mutations through populations in super-Mendelian fashion. "In CRISPR gene-drive technologies, probably the biggest challenge is making sure that we understand the environmental consequences and the unintended consequences, if any," George M. Church, Ph.D., pro- fessor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and MIT, tells GEN. Several years ago, Dr. Church's group was the first to create a gene drive in the budding yeast Sac- charomyces cerevisiae. In a more recent study on wild and laboratory strains of S. cerevisiae, Dr. Church and colleagues showed that CRISPR/Cas9 gene drive sys- tems can bias inheritance over successive generations at efficiencies over 99%. Historically, several model organisms have been used to study gene drives, and while each of them pro- vided important lessons, there are key differences be- tween them in terms of the types of information they provide and the challenges they help address. An area of particu- see page 14 Richard A. Stein, M.D., Ph.D. Technologies that would bias the inheritance of a gene or a group of genes in a population have been discussed for decades. Gene Drives Steer toward Road Tests September 15, 2017 DWK Focuses on Combining the Powers of Three 6 To Surge or Not to Surge? 22 see page 26 Meghaan M. Ferreira, Ph.D. Biologics have transformed the therapeutic landscape. Twenty years ago, the pharmaceutical industry could hardly have envisioned the growth and broad impact that biologics would have today, according to Kendra Hightower, Ph.D., senior study director at Metabolon: "Now, they're not just part of the therapeutic land- scape—they've become key defining components of most pharmaceutical pipelines." While reducing costs, increas- ing production, and meeting Solving the Puzzle of Cell Culture Optimization see page 18 Leading the Way in Life Science Technologies Metabolomics can assess factors that influence the active biology of the cells in the bioprocess such as genetics, operational en- vironments, and nutritional requirements. Metabolon's tech- nology provides a broad, informative assessment of biochemical space (i.e., active biology), expanding the avenues for optimizing production systems beyond conventional technologies. Multiplex Immunoassays Bring the Array, Not the Disarray 8 GEN ROUNDUP Scientists believe that within a decade CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing could be used in a gene drive approach in mosquitoes to help fight malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. abadonian/Getty Images

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