Aldevron Breakthrough Blog
Connecting on CRISPR
June 29, 2022 / by Max Sellman
Innovation from the CRISPR 2022 Meeting
When it comes to gene editing technology, there are few meetings as valuable for us and our collaborators as the annual CRISPR meeting. Academic in focus and highly technical in nature, the 2022 edition of this event came to Boston, packing more than 40 lectures and 120 posters into a rapid-fire, three-day learning experience.
Presenters at CRISPR 2022 covered a wide range of topics related to CRISPR, including functionality of Class 1/Class 2 CRISPR-Cas systems, structural biology, and CRISPR immunity. As Aldevron’s product manager for gene editing proteins, my goal at a very technical conference like this is to hear what innovators in the field are working on to see how we might incorporate these learnings into Aldevron’s gene editing products and manufacturing services. After reflecting on the talks and poster sessions, there were a few key takeaways.
Researchers have known for several years that certain mobile genetic elements have harnessed CRISPR-Cas systems to relocate themselves throughout the genome. These systems are known as CRISPR-associated Transposons (CASTs), comprised of transposase enzymes to relocate the enclosed DNA sequence, as well as one or more CRISPR effector proteins to guide the system to the integration site. CASTs can transpose and integrate large DNA cargos ranging from 0.5 to 10 kb.
Due to the ability to efficiently transport large DNA cargos, an increasing number of research teams are exploring the biology of CAST systems as potential genome editing tools. Professor Elizabeth Kellogg of Cornell University presented on t he latest efforts from her team to characterize the structure and mechanism of genomic integration for a type V-K CRISPR transposase system.
More research is required to fully understand how these systems function and may be optimized, but it is clear that CASTs are a promising tool for non-viral integration of large DNA payloads, and you will be hearing much more about them in the future.
More groups are designing new CRISPR protein variants
Several posters at CRISPR were focused on efforts to discover or engineer the next great genome editing tool. Approximately 10% of posters were specifically focused on introducing new systems and approaches to identify or engineer useful variants, such as:
- Kasey Jividen from Tsai Lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital presented on a directed evolution platform that selects for Cas9 variants with higher activity and/or broadened PAM specificity
- Grace Hibshman from the Taylor Lab at University of Texas at Austin presented a poster on a rationally-designed high-fidelity Cas9 variant
- Roy Rabinowitz from Offen's Lab at Tel Aviv University presented a computational approach that can be applied to engineer new CRISPR variants via in silico evolution
There was a ton of energy at this meeting, the first since CRISPR 2019, with key innovators and researchers providing a lot of new information that will move the industry forward quickly. Industry partners like Aldevron should be ready to support these upcoming approaches and research programs with flexible manufacturing solutions that can rapidly scale up new variants and associated technology. We’re pleased to continue serving this community and look forward to seeing the next round of innovation at CRISPR 2023.