A Public Resource Compiled by the

Human and Agriculture Gene Editing:
Regulations and Index

Click on a country (eg. Brazil, US) or region (eg. European Union) below to find which human / health products and processes are approved or in development and their regulatory status.

Hotspots Background

European Union

Brazil

New Zealand

United States

Australia

Canada

China

United Kingdom

Israel

Argentina

Japan

Mexico

Russia

Chile

Uruguay

Paraguay

India

Africa

Ukraine

Southeast Asia

Central America

Human / Health Gene Editing Index

Colors and ratings guide
 

Regulation StatusRating
Determined: No Unique Regulations*10
Lightly Regulated8
Proposed: No Unique Regulations†6
Ongoing Research, Regulations In Development5
Highly Regulated4
Mostly Prohibited2
Limited Research, No Clear Regulations1
Prohibited0
*Gene and stem cell therapies regulated as phamaceuticals with no additional restrictions.

†Decrees under consideration for gene and stem cell therapies that would not require unique regulations beyond current restrictions on pharmaceuticals.

Therapeutic:
Gene editing of adult human cells, including gene therapy and stem cell therapy, that is used to treat and cure disease. Recent breakthroughs include CAR T-cell therapy, which uses patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancer.
Germline:
Gene editing of the human embryo or germline that results in genetic changes that are passed down to the next generation. This type of gene editing is the most controversial because changes are inherited and because it could theoretically be used to create “designer babies”. A Chinese scientist announced in 2018 that he had successfully edited twins that were brought to term. International backlash from the announcement has resulted in China and other countries working to clarify regulations on germline gene editing.

Rating by Country / Region
Click each column header and arrow to sort the countries / regions

Swipe right/left if all columns aren't visible

Country / RegionTherapeuticGermlineHuman Rating
Japan888
Brazil402
Canada402
Russia1057.5
Argentina513
Israel825
Australia402
China846
US402
Chile412.5
New Zealand402
Ukraine856.5
Central America111
Paraguay111
Uruguay111
India804
UK444
Mexico804
EU402

Pivotal Developments in Gene Editing, 1987-Present

Reprinted with permission from ITIF on Medium

L. Val Giddings, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

Note: This timeline was last updated on November 7, 2019.

Hardly a day goes by without new reports of advances in gene editing. It can be very hard to keep up, even for those following closely. This compilation brings together a list of salient events and media coverage over the last three decades. It is not complete or encyclopedic, but eclectic, focused primarily on CRISPR, and, we hope, illuminating. It will be updated as developments warrant.

1987: Nucleotide sequence of the iap gene, responsible for alkaline phosphatase isozyme conversion in Escherichia coli, and identification of the gene product. Ishino Yoshizumi, Shinagawa H, Makino K, Amemura M, Nakata A. 1987. J Bacteriol 169:5429–5433. doi:10.1128/jb.169.12.5429–5433.1987. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC213968/.

This is the first published report documenting the existence in E. coli of an unusual repeating sequence of DNA of unknown function, later determined to be CRSIPR, and subsequently found widely among bacteria.

2007: CRISPR provides acquired resistance against viruses in prokaryotes. Barrangou R1, Fremaux C, Deveau H, Richards M, Boyaval P, Moineau S, Romero DA, Horvath P. Science. 2007 March 23; 315(5819):1709–12. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/315/5819/1709/tab-pdf.

Danisco scientists discover that the unusual repeats are part of a bacterial defense system against viruses, and figure out how to harness it for use in yoghurt production.

2008 19 December: CRISPR Interference Limits Horizontal Gene Transfer in Staphylococci by Targeting DNA http://science.sciencemag.org/content/322/5909/1843.long.

An early intimation of practical applications of CRISPR, in this case to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance under specific circumstances.

2012: A programmable dual-RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity. Jinek M1, Chylinski K, Fonfara I, Hauer M, Doudna JA, Charpentier E. Science. 2012 Aug 17;337(6096):816–21. doi: 10.1126/science.1225829. Epub 2012 Jun 28. https://sci-hub.tw/10.1126/science.1225829.

This is the keystone paper that finally put all the pieces together in figuring out how CRISPR works and how it might be used, by virtue of which Charpentier & Doudna are widely assumed to be front runners for a Nobel.

2015 4 June: HeidiLedford CRISPR, the disruptor: A powerful gene-editing technology is the biggest game changer to hit biology since PCR. But with its huge potential come pressing concerns. Nature 522, 20–24 http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-the-disruptor-1.17673.

2016 22 June: Sara Reardon First CRISPR clinical trial gets green light from US panel Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20137 https://www.nature.com/news/first-crispr-clinical-trial-gets-green-light-from-us-panel-1.20137.

“…an advisory committee at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved a proposal to use CRISPR–Cas9 to help augment cancer therapies that rely on enlisting a patient’s T cells, a type of immune cell.”

21 July: David Cyranoski Chinese scientists to pioneer first human CRISPR trial — Gene-editing technique to treat lung cancer is due to be tested in people in August Nature 535, 476–477 doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20302 http://www.nature.com/news/chinese-scientists-to-pioneer-first-human-crispr-trial-1.20302.

2017 14 February: U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24623/human-genome-editing-science-ethics-and-governance.

This thoughtful and thorough NAS report lays a solid groundwork for the responsible and ethical pursuit of gene editing applied to humans. It anticipated and described measures for preventing the kind of abuses manifest in He Jiankui’s approach.

2017 30 August: Raj Chari & George Church. Beyond editing to writing large genomeshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793211/.

“Recent exponential advances in genome sequencing and engineering technologies have enabled an unprecedented level of interrogation into the impact of DNA variations (genotype) on cellular function (phenotype). Furthermore, these advances have also prompted realistic discussion of writing and radically re-writing complex genomes. In this Perspective, we detail the motivation for large-scale engineering, discuss the progress made from such projects in bacteria and yeast and describe how various genome-engineering technologies will contribute to this effort. Finally, we describe the features of an ideal platform and provide a roadmap to facilitate the efficient writing of large genomes.”

2017 30 August Raj Chari & George Church. Beyond editing to writing large genomeshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793211/.

“Recent exponential advances in genome sequencing and engineering technologies have enabled an unprecedented level of interrogation into the impact of DNA variations (genotype) on cellular function (phenotype). Furthermore, these advances have also prompted realistic discussion of writing and radically re-writing complex genomes. In this Perspective, we detail the motivation for large-scale engineering, discuss the progress made from such projects in bacteria and yeast and describe how various genome-engineering technologies will contribute to this effort. Finally, we describe the features of an ideal platform and provide a roadmap to facilitate the efficient writing of large genomes.”

2018 28 March: USDA Secretary Perdue Issues USDA Statement on Plant Breeding Innovation https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2018/03/28/secretary-perdue-issues-usda-statement-plant-breeding-innovation

USDA announces they will not regulate gene edited innovations that mimic traits found naturally in plants and animals.

27 April: Retraction: “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR–Cas9 editing in vivo” Nature Methods vol 5, page 394 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/nmeth0518-394a.

This announcement retracts a paper widely publicized for its claim of numerous non target side effects from gene editing. The results of the original paper could not be repeated by the original authors or other labs, mooting a potentially significant cause for safety concerns.

6 April: Rachel Feltman Octopuses can basically edit their own genes on the fly — Crazy levels of RNA tinkering could explain how cephalopods got so smart. https://www.popsci.com/octopuses-can-basically-tinker-with-their-own-genes-on-fly

“According to a study published in Cell, these creatures have an uncanny ability to manipulate the instructions found within their DNA. An unprecedented panache for RNA editing may explain why cephalopods are so bright and adaptable.”

31 May: UK plants its first gene edited crop (Camelina). https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2018/05/uk-plants-first-gene-edited-crop/.

“Scientists at Rothamsted Research have sown one of the world’s first experimental field trials of a genome edited crop in an effort to develop more nutritious plants that can be sustainably grown.”

31 May: Paul Vincelli Are Non-Target Mutations via CRISPR in Plants a Concern? https://vincelliblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/are-non-target-mutations-via-crispr-in-plants-a-concern/.

1. In plants, reported off-target rates are commonly low to non-existent [1–13]; 2. Strategies for reducing off-target mutations continue to be researched and published [9, 13–20]; 3. Off-target mutations can be monitored via whole-genome sequencing; 4. In sexually reproducing crops, undesirable mutations can be segregated out [15]; 5. In contrast to clinical applications in humans, the relevance of non-target genetic changes during crop improvement is questionable.

4 July: A large-scale whole-genome sequencing analysis reveals highly specific genome editing by both Cas9 and Cpf1 (Cas12a) nucleases in rice. https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-018-1458-5.

“Our comprehensive and rigorous analysis of WGS data across multiple sample types suggests both Cas9 and Cpf1 nucleases are very specific in generating targeted DNA modifications and off-targeting can be avoided by designing guide RNAs with high specificity.”

6 July: Controversial CRISPR ‘gene drives’ tested in mammals for the first time (lab mice). https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05665-1.

“…researchers describe developing ‘gene drives’ — which could be used to eradicate problematic animal populations — in lab mice using the CRISPR gene-editing technique.”

11 June: CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing induces a p53-mediated DNA damage response. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-018-0049-z. Researchers report results suggesting CRISPR might be useful to impact one of the main genes important in the development of cancer in humans.

11 July: Gene editing in Macaque model results in high cholesterol treatment (meganucleases). http://bioscriptionblog.com/2018/07/11/gene-editing-macaque-high-cholesterol/.

16 July, 2018: Nuffield Council on Bioethics: Genome editing and human reproduction: Social and Ethical Issueshttp://nuffieldbioethics.org/project/genome-editing-human-reproduction.

The reliably credible and independent Nuffield Council has navigated complicated moral thickets on many challenging issues. This landmark contribution extends their excellent record and provides appropriate yardsticks for evaluating and considering human gene editing.

23 July: A simple guide to CRISPR, one of the biggest science stories of the decade. https://www.vox.com/2018/7/23/17594864/crispr-cas9-gene-editing.

A user friendly guide to CRISPR in the popular media!

25 July: European Court of Justice ruling on gene editing. https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-07/cp180111en.pdf.

This (widely condemned) ECJ ruling decided that products of gene editing would be legally subject to the draconian EU regulations applied to “GMOs” which are widely recognized as unscientific, impermissibly discriminatory, and disincentivizing to innovation.

3 August: CRISPR-Cas12a More Precise Than CRISPR-Cas9. https://www.genengnews.com/topics/genome-editing/crispr-cas12a-more-precise-than-crispr-cas9/81256099/

Paper describing details of a CRISPR gene editing mechanism with a different functionality than Cas9 (one of many), making it a superior tool for some applications.

6 August: Gene-edited silkworms spin out spider silk, could lead to mass production https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/gene-edited-spider-silk/.

20 August: Scientists tweak DNA in viable human embryos (Marfan synbdrome). https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/08/scientists-tweak-dna-viable-human-embryos.

“Researchers from China used a variation of CRISPR… to correct a single amino acid that causes Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that can affect the heart, bones, and joints.”

24 August: A CRISPR cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy is closer after a trial in dogs. Treating a fatal muscle disease could be the next major advance for gene editing. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611940/a-crispr-cure-for-duchenne-muscular-dystrophy-trial-in-dogs-exonics/.

31 August: First CRISPR clinical trial backed by U.S. companies launches. https://www.statnews.com/2018/08/31/human-trial-of-crispr-for-blood-disorder-launches/

“The first clinical trial of CRISPR-Cas9 sponsored by U.S. companies has launched, testing the genome-editing technique in patients with the blood disorder beta thalassemia…”

4 September: CRISPR halts fatal genetic disease in dogs, could soon do the same in humans. https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/crispr-gene-editing-dmd/

“…scientists were able to use a single-cut gene-editing technique to restore” normal levels of a key protein, the absence of which causes a fatal genetic disease known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

5 September: First test of in-body gene editing shows promise (Hunter syndrome). Preliminary results suggest that treatment for rare disease is safe, but its effectiveness is unclear. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06195-6

10 September: Heidi Ledford UC Berkeley vs Broad Institute patent litigation: Team from the University of California, Berkeley, loses appeal over coveted gene-editing technology. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06656-y.

Once anticipated as a ruling that would make or break emerging commercial empires, the impact of this decision has been attenuated by rapid pace of scientific progress in understanding CRISPR (see, e.g., the entry for 3 August).

12 September: Kansas Wheat Commission to Fund Gene Editing Research at Kansas State University https://seedworld.com/kansas-wheat-commission-to-fund-gene-editing-research-at-kansas-state-university/.

With wheat growers alarmed at dwindling competitiveness caused by missing out on the transgenic revolution, “The Kansas Wheat Commission has announced that it is putting its support behind a technology… that one researcher says will bring “many new discoveries” in improving wheat.”

21 September: Bacterial Immunity — Anti-CRISPR RNA? http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6408/1212.6

Mother Nature is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. “Bacteria use the CRISPR-Cas immune system to fend off viruses; viruses use anti-CRISPR proteins to fight back. Some bacteria have acquired anti-CRISPR proteins in their genomes to avoid self-cutting. Meeske and Marraffini report the intriguing possibility that bacteria might also use RNA to inhibit CRISPR-Cas enzymes.”

28 September: Editing mosquito DNA could help wipe out malaria and Zika — here’s how https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/mosquito-gene-drive-dna-ending-population/.

“Researchers from the United Kingdom’s Imperial College London have developed a new, promising approach to add to the toolset: A “gene drive” which disseminates a genetic modification that stops female mosquitoes from reproducing.”

28 September: Roseville gene-editing firm Calyxt announces deal with soybean processor — The high-tech soybeans have been stripped of the gene that creates trans fats. http://www.startribune.com/roseville-gene-editing-firm-calyxt-announces-deal-with-soybean-processor/494629061/.

3 October: Japan set to allow gene editing in human embryos — Draft guidelines permit gene-editing tools for research into early human development. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06847-7.

“Japan has issued draft guidelines that allow the use of gene-editing tools in human embryos.”

4 October: Domesticating crops usually takes centuries. CRISPR just did it in two years. https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/gene-editing-crispr-groundcherries/.

“… technology-aided rapid “domestication” could mean transforming the little-known groundcherries into agriculture’s next mainstream berry crop.”

18 October: Aurélie Jouanin, Lesley Boyd, Richard G. F. Visser, et al. Development of Wheat With Hypoimmunogenic Gluten Obstructed by the Gene Editing Policy in Europe. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2018.01523/full.

“Gene editing using CRISPR/Cas9 can precisely remove or modify the DNA sequences coding for immunogenic peptides. Wheat with hypoimmunogenic gluten thus exemplifies the potential of gene editing for improving crops for human consumption where conventional breeding cannot succeed. We describe here, in relation to breeding hypoimmunogenic wheat varieties, the inconsistencies of applying GM regulation in Europe for gene-edited plants while mutation breeding-derived plants are exempted. We explain that healthy products derived from this new technology may become available in the United States, Canada, Argentina and other countries but not in Europe, because of strict regulation of unintended GM risk at the expense of reduction the existing immunogenicity risks of patients. We argue that regulation of gene-edited plants should be based on scientific evidence.”

7 November: 13 nations say it’s time to end ‘political posturing’ and embrace crop gene editing. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/11/07/13-nations-say-its-time-to-end-political-posturing-and-embrace-crop-gene-editing/.

“How would the rest of the world react to the polar opposite positions established by the EU and the US. We are now getting some clarity. A coalition of 13 countries announced this week that it would “support policies that enable agricultural innovation, including genome editing.””

11 October: FDA gives go-ahead for CRISPR-based sickle cell disease trial. https://pharmaphorum.com/news/fda-gives-go-ahead-for-crispr-based-sickle-cell-disease-trial/.

“Development of a stem cell therapy for sickle cell disease from Vertex and development partner CRISPR therapeutics can go ahead, after the FDA lifted a hold on a review.”

6 November Jordana Cepelewicz In the Nucleus, Genes’ Activity Might Depend on Their Location — Using a new CRISPR-based technique, researchers are examining how the position of DNA within the nucleus affects gene expression and cell functionhttps://www.quantamagazine.org/in-the-nucleus-genes-activity-might-depend-on-their-location-20181106/. Original paper at https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(18)31185-1

“Using a new technique based on the genome-editing tool CRISPR, [researchers] artificially pinned parts of a cell’s DNA to different regions in the nucleus and observed what happened. The work, published last month in Cell, has begun to yield intriguing insights into how various nuclear neighborhoods may relate to gene expression, as either cause or facilitator.”

8 November: Ginkgo Bioworks and Glycosyn LLC Announce $14MM Deal to Scale Production of Human Milk Oligosaccharides. https://synbiobeta.com/news/ginkgo-bioworks-and-glycosyn-human-milk-oligosaccharides/

Companies announce a joint effort “to optimize and scale the production of human milk oligosaccharides (hMOS) for a suite of products that offer health benefits by fostering a healthy gut microbial ecology.”

11 November: Elo Life Systems Launches Australian Subsidiary in Queensland. https://synbiobeta.com/news/elo-life-systems-launches-australian-subsidiary-in-queensland/

Australian company aims to use gene editing to develop “novel plant-based protein alternatives and other nutritionally enhanced crops that bolster Australia’s position as a leading global exporter of high protein pulses.”

25 November: Antonio Regalado EXCLUSIVE: Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies-A daring effort is under way to create the first children whose DNA has been tailored using gene editing. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612458/exclusive-chinese-scientists-are-creating-crispr-babies/.

The story that broke the announcement of He Jiankui’s paradigm shifting claims.

SEE EXPANDED TIMELINE ON CRISPR BABIES AT THIS LINK.

28 November: Nature Editorial: Fear holds back gene-edited crops — educate the publichttps://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07547-y.

December 2018: Nuffield Council on Bioethics Editing Biosecurity: Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing. Link

“In 2017, researchers from George Mason University and Stanford University initiated a two-year multidisciplinary study, Editing Biosecurity, to explore critical biosecurity issues related to CRISPR and related genome editing technologies. The overarching goal of the study was to present governance options and recommendations to key stakeholders, and to identify broader trends in the life sciences that may alter the security landscape. In characterizing the landscape, and in the design of these options and recommendations, the research team focused on how to manage the often-competing demands of promoting innovation and preventing misuse, and how to adapt current, or create new, governance mechanisms to achieve these objectives.”

6 December: Japan may boost gene-edited foods development https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/12/66a6cf039c8d-panel-report-may-help-promote-gene-edited-foods-in-japan.html

“A health ministry panel said… most of the foods currently under development using genome editing can be marketed without safety screening by the state, a proposal that would accelerate the creation of such items as more nutritious tomatoes and more meaty red seabream in Japan.”

12 December: Rice Plants That Reproduce as Clones From Seed: Ability to Grow Hybrid Varieties a Potential Breakthrough for Global Agriculture. By Andy Fell in Food & Agriculture https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/rice-plants-reproduce-clones-seed.

“Plant biologists at the University of California, Davis, have discovered a way to make crop plants replicate through seeds as clones. The discovery, long sought by plant breeders and geneticists, could make it easier to propagate high-yielding, disease-resistant or climate-tolerant crops and make them available to the world’s farmers.”

14 December: CRISPR without the Chop Reverses Genetic Obesity in Mice. https://www.genengnews.com/news/crispr-without-the-chop-reverses-genetic-obesity-in-mice/.

Scientists at UCSF have reversed two kinds of obesity in mice not by changing DNA sequences but by using “CRISPR activation (CRISPRa)” to elevate production of native compounds.

14 December: Preetika Rana and Lucy Craymer Deformities Alarm Scientists Racing to Rewrite Animal DNA-Unintended consequences have included enlarged rabbit tongues and extra pig vertebrae, as bioethicists warn of hubris. https://www.wsj.com/articles/deformities-alarm-scientists-racing-to-rewrite-animal-dna-11544808779.

A substandard piece that mistakenly suggests dangers from gene editing by citing pathologies well known for decades to be side effects of animal cloning.

17 December: Carolyn Y. Johnson Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them? Cutting-edge lab techniques could improve animal breeding, but society may not be ready. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2018/12/17/feature/gene-edited-farm-animals-are-coming-will-we-eat-them/

This is a well written, factually accurate roundup of the state of play re gene editing in livestock.

17 December: 16 CRISPR Scientists & Pioneers: The Real Heroes of Genome Engineeringhttps://www.synthego.com/blog/crispr-scientists.

“We believe that the CRISPR scientists, who are using this genome editing technology responsibly to change the world for the better, are the real heroes of CRISPR. The goal of this article is to introduce these true CRISPR celebrities and showcase their incredible work.”

18 December: Jean-Denis Faure & Johnathan A Napier Point of View: Europe’s first and last field trial of gene-edited plants? https://elifesciences.org/articles/42379

British researchers recount the first UK field trial of a CRISPR-Cas9 edited plant and predict the ECJ decision to apply EU GMO regulation may also make it the last.

18 December: Intrexon and AquaBounty Receive Regulatory Exemption in Development of Gene Edited Tilapia for More Sustainable Production — Assessment by Argentina’s National Advisory Commission on Agricultural Biotechnology Sets Regulatory Precedent. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/intrexon-and-aquabounty-receive-regulatory-exemption-in-development-of-gene-edited-tilapia-for-more-sustainable-production-300768053.html.

“This line of tilapia enables more sustainable production through improvements in fillet yield, growth and feed conversion efficiency, enabling the tilapia to grow to market weight in less time, while also consuming less feed than conventional varieties.”

21 December: Jesse Kirkpatrick & Michael Flynn Don’t Let Russia Undermine Trust in Science — Disinformation around genetic editing could set back advances to improve both health and the economyhttps://slate.com/technology/2018/12/russia-science-disinformation-genetic-editing-crispr-social-media.html

In a recent report on security and genome editing, we outline how a weaponized narrative on gene drive technology could unfold as part of a sophisticated information warfare campaign… But a healthy dose of user skepticism may help mitigate the risk of weaponized bionarratives damaging important scientific advances.

4 January 2019: Jonathan Shieber Up to $818 million deal between J&J and Locus Biosciences points to a new path for CRISPR therapieshttps://techcrunch.com/2019/01/04/up-to-818-million-deal-between-jj-and-locus-biosciences-points-to-a-new-path-for-crispr-therapies/.

“The up to $818 million deal… points toward a new path for CRISPR gene editing technologies and (potentially) the whole field of microbiome-targeted therapies… focused on Cas3 proteins, which devour DNA Pac-Man-style, rather than edit it like the more well-known Cas9-based CRISPR technologies…”

7 January: Nicola Davis Gene editing could create spicy tomatoes, say researchers; Scientists also looking at altering colour of kiwis and taste of strawberries. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/07/gene-editing-could-create-spicy-tomatoes-say-researchers.

9 January, 2019: Farah Hancock The story of genetics and Mt Albert’s forbidden fruit — A controversial new apple created by New Zealand scientists has to be seen to be believed — and has to be eaten offshore. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/01/08/389024/mount-alberts-forbidden-fruit.

The red-fleshed apples developed by Plant and Food Research’s scientist Professor Andrew Allan and his team are so contentious they’re not allowed to eat them in New Zealand. “In the end we had to take them to America.”

9 January, 2019: ChileBio Brazilians will develop spicy tomatoes through genetic editing https://www.chilebio.cl/2019/01/09/brasilenos-piensan-desarrollar-tomates-picantes-mediante-edicion-genetica/ & https://www.cell.com/trends/plant-science/fulltext/S1360-1385(18)30261-9

“Do you like spicy food? Brazilian genetic engineers believe they could soon develop tomatoes as spicy as a chili pepper. Although tomato and chili plants separated from a common ancestor millions of years ago, tomatoes still have the genetic pathway necessary to produce capsaicinoids, the molecules that produce the hot pepper. Brazilian scientists plan to re-activate this pathway in tomato using genetic editing with CRISPR.”

9 January, 2019: Bertille Duthoit The five: genetically modified fruit — New varieties created through genetic editing and engineering promise to beat disease, and offer enticing new flavours. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/13/the-five-genetically-modified-fruit-edited-bananas-tomatoes.

11 January, 2019: Cornell Alliance for Science Petition to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Harmonize US gene-edited food regulationshttps://www.gopetition.com/petitions/harmonize-us-gene-edited-food-regulations.html.

NGO advocating science based policy to encourage agricultural innovation rallies interested partners from around the world and calls on FDA to return regulatory policy for gene edited animals to alignment with longstanding U.S. policy and fundamental tenets of risk assessment and management.

13 January, 2019: Anjana Ahuja Beyond ‘superbabies’: how Crispr is revolutionising medicine — Genome-editing offers new tools for diagnostics, drug discovery and treating disease. https://www.ft.com/content/c30d8f84-fe1e-11e8-b03f-bc62050f3c4e.

“The targets we’re finding with Crispr-Cas9 are going to guide the drugs coming out in the 2020s…” There are thought to be around 10,000 disorders resulting from a single mutation, such as cystic fibrosis. “Many scientists consider genome editing to have great potential for dealing with inherited genetic disorders…”

15 January, 2019: Ayan Das, Namisha Sharma & Manoj Prasad CRISPR/Cas9: A Novel Weapon in the Arsenal to Combat Plant Diseases Frontiers in Plant Science, 15 January 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.02008.

“The first generation of genome editing technologies, due to their cumbersome nature, is becoming obsolete. Owing to its simple and inexpensive nature the use of CRISPR/Cas9 system has revolutionized targeted genome editing technology. CRISPR/Cas9 system has been exploited for developing resistance against virus, bacteria, and fungi.”

16 January 2019: The John Innes Centre Application for Field Trial of Genetically Modified Organisms: High Iron Wheat and CRISPR Brassicahttps://www.jic.ac.uk/news/application-field-trial-2019/.

“Researchers at the John Innes Centre have applied to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for consent to conduct field trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat and gene-edited Brassica (CRISPR). The two small-scale field trials are planned to take place at the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park, within our existing, confined, GM trial facilities, between April and September in each year from 2019 to 2022. The wheat trial follows research at the John Innes Centre that identified a gene… which encodes for an iron transporter in wheat. The scientists used this knowledge to develop a wheat line in which more iron is directed into the endosperm, the part of the grain from which white flour is milled. Iron deficiency or anaemia is a global health issue, but the iron content of staple crops such as wheat has been difficult to improve using conventional breeding, and as a result many wheat products for human consumption are artificially fortified with iron. Increasing the nutritional quality of crops, known as biofortification, is a sustainable approach to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies.”

16 January 2019: CRISPR Aids Fight Against Neglected Tropical Diseases https://www.genengnews.com/news/crispr-aids-fight-against-neglected-tropical-disease/.

“…an international team of investigators led by scientists at George Washington University (GW) has successfully used the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to limit the impact of parasitic worms responsible for schistosomiasis and liver fluke infections — which can cause a diverse spectrum of human disease including bile duct cancer.”

16 January 2019: Editing antibiotics: New take on the CRISPR system may help fight antibiotic resistance. https://www.biotechniques.com/crispr/crispr-editing-antibiotics/.

“Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI, USA) have developed a new way to use CRISPR, this time as a potential method for reducing antibiotic resistance. By targeting the genes most effected by existing antibiotics, it is possible to determine how best to improve the drugs or how to develop new ones.”

16 January 2019: René Custers, Josep M. Casacuberta, Dennis Eriksson, et al. Genetic Alterations That Do or Do Not Occur Naturally; Consequences for Genome Edited Organisms in the Context of Regulatory Oversight. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2018.00213/full.

“The ability to successfully exploit genome edited organisms for the benefit of food security and the environment will essentially be determined by the extent to which these organisms fall under specific regulatory provisions. In many jurisdictions the answer to this question is considered to depend on the genetic characteristics of the edited organism, and whether the changes introduced in its genome do (or do not) occur naturally. We provide here a number of key considerations to assist with this evaluation as well as a guide of concrete examples of genetic alterations with an assessment of their natural occurrence.”

17 January 2019: German Bioeconomy Council calls for political commitment to agricultural innovation. http://biooekonomierat.de/en/news/genome-editing-final-igw19/.

“Looking ahead to future trends in the food and agriculture sector, the German Bioeconomy Council is calling for a modernization of the genetic engineering legislation in the EU.”

18 January 2019: CJEU ruling triggers exodus of EU plant research. https://european-biotechnology.com/up-to-date/backgrounds-stories/story/cjeu-ruling-triggers-exodus-of-eu-plant-research.html.

“EU plant researchers face a significant drop in R&D funding for genome-edited crops after the CJEU has ruled that genetic methods that use the cell’s DNA repair system to induce targeted point mutations in the crop genome cannot be exempted from the bloc’s GMO Directive 2001/18/EC. Nearly 74% of 197 EU researchers surveyed… said they expect the ruling to have a negative impact on public and private funding in the field of new breeding methods. As GMO safety assessment and market approval cost 5 to 20 times more than deregulated marketing of genome-edited crops, which were greenlighted in March 2018 in the US, innovative seed developers are turning away product development from Europe. “We respect the ruling of the CJEU and won’t be making use of CRISPR-Cas in the development of our vegetable varieties,” a spokesman for Dutch vegetable seed supplier Rijk Zwaan said, “though we do use CRISPR-Cas in our research.” Also, other European companies follow the paradigm of “research can be done anywhere; development is going outside the EU.”

18 January 2019: Maxx Chatsko 4 Gene-Editing Technologies That Could Replace CRISPR: The future of medicine involves the precise engineering of human cells. Turns out, that future may not include that promising CRISPR technique. https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/01/18/4-gene-editing-technologies-that-could-replace-cri.aspx.

In multiple recent speaking engagements, Church laid out four different gene-editing systems that may move the field “beyond cutting” for applications as diverse as industrial biotechnology, human medicine, and xenotransplantation, which is the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species.”

20 January, 2019: Alison Van Eenennaam Proposed U.S. Regulation of Gene-Edited Food Animals is not Fit for Purposehttps://biobeef.faculty.ucdavis.edu/2019/01/20/proposed-u-s-regulation-of-gene-edited-food-animals-is-not-fit-for-purpose/.

“It has been more than two years since the FDA released its draft “Guidance for Industry #187” “Regulation of Intentionally Altered Genomic DNA in Animals”, that proposes to regulate ANY “intentionally altered genomic DNA” in food animals as a veterinary drug, irrespective of product novelty or risk. Human intention does not equate to risk. This regulatory trigger seems to be aimed squarely at some taint associated with human intervention… this regulatory approach will make food animal research in this field cost prohibitive, and effectively preclude the use of gene editing in food animal breeding programs.”

21 January, 2019: Angelica Hardegger New genetic engineering procedures are to be regulated more liberally in Switzerland than in the EU. https://www.nzz.ch/schweiz/crisprcas-bundesrat-strebt-liberalere-regelung-an-als-die-eu-ld.1452558

“The [Swiss] Federal Council has adopted a hitherto ignored fundamental decision on genetic engineering: It wants to regulate modern processes such as Crispr / Cas less strictly than the “old” genetic engineering. Whether this is feasible remains questionable.”

21 January, 2019: Kate Kelland Scientists make gene-edited chickens in bid to halt next pandemic. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pandemic-chickens/scientists-make-gene-edited-chickens-in-bid-to-halt-next-pandemic-idUSKCN1PG007

“British scientists are developing gene-edited chickens designed to be totally resistant to flu in a new approach to trying to stop the next deadly human pandemic.”

22 January 2019: Broad Institute, MIT Scientists engineer new CRISPR platform for DNA targeting — CRISPR team harnesses new Cas12b enzyme for use in eukaryotic cells, adding to the CRISPR toolboxhttp://news.mit.edu/2019/scientists-engineer-crispr-cas12b-dna-targeting-0122.

“A team that includes the scientist who first harnessed the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 and other systems for genome editing of eukaryotic organisms, including animals and plants, has engineered another CRISPR system, called Cas12b. The new system offers improved capabilities and options when compared to CRISPR-Cas9 systems.”

22 January 2019: Jenna Gallegos A CRISPR Approach to Greener Beer. https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/01/crispr-approach-greener-beer/.

“Beer is made mainly from wheat, barley and hops. Along with the massive amounts of water and energy used in the brewing process, growing these crops has a substantial environmental footprint. Hops grown on US soils alone guzzle a staggering 26 billion gallons of water every year. That works out to about 50 pints of water per beer, not to mention the carbon costs of transporting the hops. In addition to the environmental impact, hops pose a significant challenge to brewers… But the floral flavor behind the very popular Cascade hops comes mainly from two terpenes: linalool and geraniol. Researchers in Keasling’s lab at the University of California at Berkeley set out to engineer the genetic pathways that produce linalool and geraniol into brewers yeast.”

23 January 2019: Hannah A. Grunwald, Valentino M. Gantz, Gunnar Poplawski, et al. Super-Mendelian inheritance mediated by CRISPR–Cas9 in the female mouse germlinehttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-0875-2 and LINK

“Biologists at the University of California San Diego have developed the world’s first CRISPR/Cas9-based approach to control genetic inheritance in a mammal.”

25 January 2019: Ron Bailey Should We Be Worried About How Gene-Edited Kids Will Affect Future Generations? A new international commission will consider the pros and cons of human genome editing. http://reason.com/blog/2019/01/25/should-we-be-worried-about-how-gene-edit.

According to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, the human genome is the common “heritage of humanity”; on that basis a U.N. bioethics commission argued for a permanent “moratorium on genome editing of the human germline.” But enabling governments to decide what sort of children can and cannot be born is the very definition of eugenics. After all, what horrors are parents likely to inflict on their progeny by means of gene-editing? Less risk of disease, stronger bodies, and nimbler brains. While some parents will certainly make mistaken choices as gene-editing and assisted reproduction technologies advance, they are surely far more trustworthy guardians of the human gene pool than any set of well-intentioned bureaucrats. How worried should the rest of us be about how gene-edited children will affect future generations? Consider three scenarios. If the edited genes are beneficial to individuals then they will be beneficial to their offspring. If the edited genes tragically turn out to be harmful to individuals, then like deleterious natural genes they will tend to be selected against in reproduction and thus not spread to many folks in future generations. But an even more likely prospect is that edited genes that turn out to be harmful will be fixed by more advanced genetic engineering before they are passed along to the next generation. Given that, the new international commission on human genome editing should firmly reject all calls to ban human genome editing and instead focus its efforts on devising standards for deploying this technology safely.”

January 25, 2019: Carolyn Wilke Clones Made of CRISPRed Monkeys — Researchers edited macaque embryos to induce symptoms of sleep disorders and chose one animal to clone. A bioethicist questions the study’s appropriateness. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/clones-made-of-crispred-monkeys-65387#.XE9zxzNffKI.twitter.

Chinese scientists have cloned five gene-edited macaque monkeys, the researchers reported in two papers in National Science Review on January 24. These clones were made though the somatic cell nuclear transfer method that was used to produce the first primate clones, also macaques, announced roughly a year ago. But in the new report, the monkeys’ genomes were first edited using CRISPR-Cas9 to show symptoms of sleep disorders by knocking out BMAL1, an important gene for circadian regulation.”

January 28, 2019: Wageningen University & Research Press Release Wheat can be made safe for people with coeliac disease by using gene editing. https://www.wur.nl/en/newsarticle/Wheat-can-be-made-safe-for-people-with-coeliac-disease-by-using-gene-editing.htm. (see also entry above for 18 October, 2018).

One can now use CRISPR/Cas to remove all gluten genes, which would produce a gluten-free wheat which is interesting for many people who want to eat gluten-free, but it would have an inferior baking quality. In her PhD thesis, Aurélie Jouanin also describes an alternative use of gene editing with CRISPR/Cas9 to precisely modify gliadin genes and strip them of immunogenic epitopes, to develop wheat with safe gluten. As a proof of principle she generated wheat plants in which some gliadin genes were modified or removed. These edited wheat plants are not yet safe for CD patients, as there is a large number of gluten genes present in wheat and not all gluten genes have been targeted. She has therefore also developed high-throughput methods to determine which genes have been modified and which remain to be edited in future steps towards a safe wheat variety.”

January 29 2019: Flora Southey CRISPR for Coeliacs? Gene-editing tech makes wheat with safe gluten’https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2019/01/29/CRISPR-for-coeliacs-Gene-editing-tech-makes-wheat-with-safe-gluten.

Gene-editing technology can be used to remove epitopes — the molecules responsible for inducing coeliac disease in susceptible individuals — from wheat, according to recent research. However, with Europe’s strict GM rules, will this make a dramatic difference to allergy sufferers?”

January 30, 2019: European Commission, Joint Research Centre & European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL) Detection of food and feed obtained by new plant mutagenesis. techniques. http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1549640768-Genome%20editing%20report_final%20version%20ENGL.pdf.

“…It is… questionable if an event-specific quantitative detection method can be developed for such GMOs [genome edited plant products], particularly when they are characterised by a short DNA alteration consisting of one or a few base pairs. Such detection methods will probably lack the specificity required to target the unique DNA alteration in the genome-edited plant and quantification of the presence of the specific product in a complex food or feed material may not be possible. Detection methods may therefore fail to fulfil the method performance requirements and, as a consequence, may result in the rejection of the application. For genome-edited plant products with a large DNA alteration an event-specific quantitative detection method may be developed and could pass the validation process in case the DNA alteration does not also occur naturally; this will need to be demonstrated.”

January 31, 2019: Michael Le Page Virus lurking inside banana genome has been destroyed with CRISPR. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2192461-virus-lurking-inside-banana-genome-has-been-destroyed-with-crispr/ and https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-019-0288-7.

Genome editing has been used to destroy a virus that lurks inside many of the bananas grown in Africa. Other teams are trying to use it to make the Cavendish bananas sold in supermarkets worldwide resistant to a disease that threatens to make it impossible to grow this variety commercially in future… Leena Tripathi at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Kenya has now used the CRISPR genome editing method to target and destroy the viral DNA inside the genome of a banana variety called Gonja Manjaya. The plan is to use these plants to breed virus-free plants for farmers. Her team is also using CRISPR to make the bananas resistant to the virus, so they are not simply re-infected. ”

January 31 2019: Lominda Afedraru Uganda to launch innovative gene-edited cassava researchhttps://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/01/uganda-launch-innovative-gene-edited-cassava-research/.

African researchers are optimistic that gene editing will help solve the continent’s plant breeding challenges, especially the infestation of cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) that is ravaging the crop in Uganda and other East African countries.”

February 5: Kristen Hovet Using CRISPR to fight antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/02/05/using-crispr-to-fight-antibiotic-resistant-superbugs/.

“Recent research from the University of Manchester’s school of chemistry has introduced the possibility of a new form of antibiotic production which could help in the war against antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Researchers discovered the biosynthetic pathway of an antibiotic called malonomycin using CRISPR/Cas9, the revolutionary and sometimes controversial gene-editing tool.”

February 8: Sharon Begley University of California to be granted long-sought CRISPR patent, possibly reviving dispute with the Broad Institute. https://www.statnews.com/2019/02/08/the-university-of-california-gets-its-key-crispr-patent/.

“It has taken nearly six years, detours for bitter legal challenges, and tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, but the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 patent for which the University of California applied in March 2013 will soon be granted, according to documents posted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Friday, throwing yet another monkey wrench into genome editing’s tangled IP landscape.”

February 11: Timothé Cynober CRISPR: One Patent to Rule Them All. https://labiotech.eu/features/crispr-patent-dispute-licensing/.

“The gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 has revolutionized research in biology. With several parties fighting for the rights to the technology’s intellectual property, how difficult is it for third parties to access this coveted technology? The CRISPR patent dispute is quite unique. While universities usually work together to disseminate innovation and knowledge, in the CRISPR case they are fighting for a gold mine… Clearing a way through the CRISPR patent jungle is a difficult task. More than 1,700 patents have been filed by hundreds of different institutions, companies, and researchers. Around 100 new patent families on CRISPR are published each month.”

February 11: Benjamin P. Kleinstiver, Alexander A. Sousa, Russell T. Walton, et al. Engineered CRISPR–Cas12a variants with increased activities and improved targeting ranges for gene, epigenetic and base editinghttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41587-018-0011-0.

“Broad use of CRISPR–Cas12a (formerly Cpf1) nucleases1 has been hindered by the requirement for an extended TTTV protospacer adjacent motif (PAM)2. To address this limitation, we engineered an enhanced Acidaminococcus sp. Cas12a variant (enAsCas12a) that has a substantially expanded targeting range, enabling targeting of many previously inaccessible PAMs. On average, enAsCas12a exhibits a twofold higher genome editing activity on sites with canonical TTTV PAMs compared to wild-type AsCas12a…”

12 February: Carolyn Wilke Preliminary Results Point to Success of In Vivo Gene Editing: Two studies show signs that the introduced DNA is functioning, but it’s too early to know if patients actually benefit. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/preliminary-results-point-to-success-of-in-vivo-gene-editing-65452 and https://investor.sangamo.com/news-releases/news-release-details/sangamo-announces-interim-results-phase-12-champions-study.

“Preliminary results from a clinical trial, shared by the researchers at the WORLDSymposium conference in Orlando, Florida, last week (February 7), suggest success in actually altering the DNA, although it’s still unclear whether the intervention will help the patients… The men enrolled in the studies by the company Sangamo include eight patients with Hunter syndrome and three with Hurler syndrome… These are rare metabolic disorders caused by mutations that leave the men without an enzyme needed to break down certain polysaccharides. In turn, sugars accumulate in the body, leading to organ damage and often early death.”

February 15: The Broad Institute Researchers advance CRISPR-based tool for diagnosing disease -With SHERLOCK, a strip of paper can now indicate presence of pathogens, tumor DNA, or any genetic signature of interest. http://news.mit.edu/2018/researchers-advance-crispr-based-tool-diagnosing-disease-0215

“The team that first unveiled the rapid, inexpensive, highly sensitive CRISPR-based diagnostic tool called SHERLOCK has greatly enhanced the tool’s power, and has developed a miniature paper test that allows results to be seen with the naked eye — without the need for expensive equipment.”

15 February: Pallab Ghosh Gene-edited animal plan to relieve poverty in Africahttps://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47197896. A researcher in Edinburgh is leading efforts to develop gene-edited farm animals for poor farmers in Africa.

“Prof Appolinaire Djikeng is developing cows, pigs and chickens that are resistant to diseases and more productive. Among them are cattle that have been gene edited to be heat-resistant. Details of the project were given at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington DC. Prof Djikeng is the director of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health. He believes that gene editing along with more targeted traditional cross-breeding will lead to healthy, productive livestock that will transform the lives of some of the very poorest people in the world. “We can drive out poverty in some of the most vulnerable communities,” he told BBC News. “We are talking about smallholders with just one, two or three animals. “If the animals die or are not producing to their potential, it means no income for the smallholder’s family and the risk of falling into absolute poverty.””

19 February: Amy Maxmen Faster, better, cheaper: the rise of CRISPR in disease detection — Powerful gene-editing tool could help to diagnose illnesses such as Lassa fever early and rein in the spread of infection. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00601-3

“An epidemic of Lassa fever in Nigeria that has killed 69 people this year is on track to be the worst ever recorded anywhere. Now, in the hope of reducing deaths from Lassa in years to come, researchers in Nigeria are trying out a new diagnostic test based on the gene-editing tool CRISPR. The test relies on CRISPR’s ability to hunt down genetic snippets ― in this case, RNA from the Lassa virus ― that it has been programmed to find. If the approach is successful, it could help to catch a wide range of viral infections early so that treatments can be more effective and health workers can curb the spread of infection.”

20 February: Heidi Ledford Gene-edited animal creators look beyond US market: Tired of regulatory confusion and a lack of funding, some US researchers are taking their gene-edited livestock abroad. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00600-4.

“In a few weeks, reproductive biologist Charles Long will travel from Texas to São Paulo, Brazil in search of collaborators willing to take on his studies of gene-edited cattle. He is reluctant to ship the project away from his laboratory at Texas A&M University in College Station. But after 20 years of struggling to win US government funding for his research, Long says that he is done. “We’ve essentially given up,” he says. “I’m going to move the entire damn project down there.””

22 February: Robert Sanders With nanotubes, genetic engineering in plants is easy-peasy. https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/02/25/with-nanotubes-genetic-engineering-in-plants-is-easy-peasy/.

“Inserting or tweaking genes in plants is more art than science, but a new technique developed by University of California, Berkeley, scientists could make genetically engineering any type of plant — in particular, gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9 — simple and quick. To deliver a gene, the researchers graft it onto a carbon nanotube, which is tiny enough to slip easily through a plant’s tough cell wall.”

25 February: Europe: The big dilemma: genome editing — forbidden, but undetectable. https://www.transgen.de/aktuell/2742.genome-editing-nachweisverfahren.html. See also http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1549640768-Genome%20editing%20report_final%20version%20ENGL.pdf.

“In the EU genome-edited plants are invariably considered as genetic engineering. Internationally, the EU is pretty much alone. Neither the major agricultural exporting countries in North and South America want to follow this strict course, nor the European neighbors Switzerland and Norway. This comes at a price: in the future, imports of agricultural products must be controlled at the borders, so that no genome-edited plant can enter the EU illegally. However, suitable detection methods are not yet available. Europe is facing a dilemma.”

27 February: Vanessa Schipani Doudna’s Confidence in CRISPR’s Research Potential Burns Bright — Jennifer Doudna, one of CRISPR’s primary innovators, stays optimistic about how the gene-editing tool will continue to empower basic biological understanding. https://www.quantamagazine.org/doudnas-confidence-in-crisprs-research-potential-burns-bright-20190227/.

“But although Doudna argues for caution when contemplating changes that could be passed down for generations, she remains a forceful advocate for the potential of CRISPR in basic research, as well as its medical and biotech applications. “I think when you understand how things work, you can apply them more effectively. And once you apply them, you invariably uncover things that you didn’t understand about the fundamental biology of that system,” Doudna said. “I love that kind of interplay.””

4 March: Rim Lassoued, Diego Maximiliano Macall, Hayley Hesseln, Peter W. B. Phillips, Stuart J. Smyth. Benefits of genome-edited crops: expert opinion. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11248-019-00118-5.

“…sustained research and the amalgamation of a number of disciplines has resulted in new breeding techniques (NBTs), such as genome editing, which offer the promise of new opportunities to resolve some of the issues. Here we present the results of an expert survey on the added potential benefits of genome-edited crops compared to those developed through genetic modification (GM) and conventional breeding.”

11 March: Gene-editing sugarcane for biofuels could ‘secure the industry’s future’. LINK

“Australia’s University of Queensland (UQ) revealed a study into gene-editing sugarcane for use in renewable energy and bioplastics. “The industry must think beyond just producing sugar, to also producing electricity, biofuels for transportation and oils to replace traditional plastics,” said Professor Robert Henry, director of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at UQ. “It’s about reinventing sugarcane as a crop with a wider range of end uses, and sugarcane is ideal for renewables because it is fast-growing with abundant biomass.””

11 March: Clive Cookson Why the future of gene-edited foods is in the balance: Regulators will decide the impact of the biggest advance in bioscience since genetic modification. https://www.ft.com/content/12b978aa-0544-11e9-bf0f-53b8511afd73.

“Publicity around gene — or genome — editing has focused on human applications, and particularly the controversy about gene-edited babies born in China. Yet it also promises to transform agricultural production, for example genetically editing crops to make them resistant to disease or developing faster-growing varieties of livestock. The extent of that transformation will depend on variations in regulation around the world.”

12 March: Mark Brazeau Animal gene editing breakthrough: Bringing Angus beef raised from US cattle to Brazil. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/03/12/animal-gene-editing-breakthrough-bringing-angus-beef-raised-from-us-cattle-to-brazil/.

“Brazilians love their beef. Actually, they love our beef. US raised Angus beef is better marbled and more tender than the local Nelore beef, so it sells for a premium. Angus beef sells for about 50 percent more in Brazil than cuts from the native Nelore herds. Brazilian ranchers would love to charge that premium as well, but Angus cattle don’t thrive in the Brazilian heat. They slow down and stop eating enough to gain weight… Enter the biotech company Recombinetics which specializes in breeding cattle through gene-editing techniques. They are better known for the hornless gene edited dairy cows they have in development, but in terms of environmental impact, the heat-tolerant Angus cow that was cloned earlier this year in Brazil could be a much bigger deal.”

12 March: Candace Choi Gene-edited food quietly arrives in restaurant cooking oilhttps://apnews.com/17f0f799580a483fbd1b2d69bcf2ba18.

“Somewhere in the Midwest, a restaurant is frying foods with oil made from gene-edited soybeans. That’s according to the company making the oil, which says it’s the first commercial use of a gene-edited food in the U.S. Calyxt said it can’t reveal its first customer for competitive reasons, but CEO Jim Blome said the oil is “in use and being eaten.”

15 March: Cory J. Smith, Oscar Castanon, Khaled Said, et al. Enabling large-scale genome editing by reducing DNA nickinghttps://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/574020v1.

“To extend the frontier of genome editing and enable the radical redesign of mammalian genomes, we developed a set of dead-Cas9 base editor (dBEs) variants that allow editing at tens of thousands of loci per cell by overcoming the cell death associated with DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and single-strand breaks (SSBs).”

19 March: Dennis Normile Gene-edited foods are safe, Japanese panel concludes. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/03/gene-edited-foods-are-safe-japanese-panel-concludes.

“Japan will allow gene-edited foodstuffs to be sold to consumers without safety evaluations as long as the techniques involved meet certain criteria, if recommendations agreed on by an advisory panel yesterday are adopted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. This would open the door to using CRISPR and other techniques on plants and animals intended for human consumption in the country.”

19 March Ron Bailey First Gene-Edited Crop Coming to a Store Near You — Great news for consumers and farmers. https://reason.com/blog/2019/03/19/gene-edited-soy-oil-now-available.

“Healthier oil from gene-edited soybeans similar in composition to olive oil is now being used to fry foods and as an ingredient in salad dressings. To produce Calyno oil, the biotech company Calyxt gene-edited soybeans to turn off two genes involved with fatty-acid synthesis. In the past, hydrogenating soy oil to give it a longer shelf life produced unhealthy trans fats.”

19 March: Director of the Institute of Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences opposed equating CRISPR with GMOs. https://www.archyworldys.com/director-of-the-institute-of-genetics-russian-academy-of-sciences-opposed-equating-crispr-with-gmos/.

“Director of the Vavilov General Genetics Institute, Alexander Kudryavtsev, spoke out against equating genetically edited organisms with GMOs in Russia, as they did in the European Union. Speaking at the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Kudryavtsev noted that such a measure would lead to the lag of Russian science “for a long time, if not forever… The position of the Russian authorities and science on this issue remains uncertain, but GMOs are de facto in Russia banned in 2016, and domestic institutions sometimes issue highly controversial publications.”

19 March: Gregory Barber A more humane livestock industry, brought to you by CRISPRhttps://www.wired.com/story/crispr-gene-editing-humane-livestock/.

“If there is a purgatory for gene-edited cattle, it can be found in the Davis Beef Barn, which is home to six young penitents. About five years ago, their father, a bull, was genetically dehorned by a Minnesota-based company called Recombinetics. Just as egg farmers prefer hens, dairy farmers prefer polled, or hornless, cows. Often they’ll prevent the horns from growing by burning them off with a hot iron or applying caustic chemicals. So, using a Crispr-like technology known as Talens, Recombinetics gave the bull two copies of the polled variation, in the hope that none of his descendants would have to undergo the procedure.”

20 March: Alison L. Van Eenennaam, Kevin D. Wells & James D. Murray Proposed U.S. regulation of gene-edited food animals is not fit for purpose. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41538-019-0035-y.

“Dietary DNA is generally regarded as safe to consume, and is a routine ingredient of food obtained from any living organism. Millions of naturally-occurring DNA variations are observed when comparing the genomic sequence of any two healthy individuals of a given species. Breeders routinely select desired traits resulting from this DNA variation to develop new cultivars and varieties of food plants and animals. Regulatory agencies do not evaluate these new varieties prior to commercial release. Gene editing tools now allow plant and animal breeders to precisely introduce useful genetic variation into agricultural breeding programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it has no plans to place additional regulations on gene-edited plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding prior to commercialization. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed mandatory premarket new animal drug regulatory evaluation for all food animals whose genomes have been intentionally altered using modern molecular technologies including gene editing technologies. This runs counter to U.S. biotechnology policy that regulatory oversight should be triggered by unreasonable risk, and not by the fact that an organism has been modified by a particular process or technique. Breeder intention is not associated with product risk. Harmonizing the regulations associated with gene editing in food species is imperative to allow both plant and animal breeders access to gene editing tools to introduce useful sustainability traits like disease resistance, climate adaptability, and food quality attributes into U.S. agricultural breeding programs.”

20 March: Megan Molteni The First Gene-edited Food is Now Being Served. https://www.wired.com/story/the-first-gene-edited-food-is-now-being-served/.

“…No, they weren’t growing pot. They were growing something at once even more revolutionary and perhaps more controversial: gene-edited food crops… But last month Calyxt became the first to commercially debut a gene-edited food, a soybean oil it claims to have made healthier.”

22 March: Sarah Lott Scientists test use of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight malaria. https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/scientists-test-use-of-genetically-modified-mosquitoes-to-fight-malaria.

“Researchers in Terni, Italy used CRISPR technology to modify reproduction-related (gene drive) genes in female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to render them infertile. The gene drive modification also alters the female mosquitoes’ mouth anatomy to more closely resemble a male mosquito proboscis, making them unable to pierce skin. If the alteration proves successful, eventually almost all of the genetically modified mosquito offspring will inherit the trait. If introduced into nature, this could cause targeted mosquito populations to self-destruct.”

25 March: CRISPR-Chip: A New Biosensor for Electronic Detection of Target Geneshttps://www.synthego.com/blog/crispr-electronic-biosensor

“Kiana Aran, a professor at Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont, California, and her team have developed CRISPR-Chip, an electronic biosensor that uses CRISPR to detect specific genes in genomic DNA. Their findings have been published in Nature Biomedical Engineering today.”

26 March: Han Somsen Scientists Edit Genes, Courts Edit Directives. Is the Court of Justice Fighting Uncertain Scientific Risk with Certain Constitutional Risk? https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-journal-of-risk-regulation/article/scientists-edit-genes-courts-edit-directives-is-the-court-of-justice-fighting-uncertain-scientific-risk-with-certain-constitutional-risk/E4A5087303858FDA997337D3AEF7B413.

“The gene editing technologies that triggered Case C-528/16, Confédération paysanne, are spearheading a breakthrough in the life sciences. CRISPR/CAS9, for example, allows genes in organisms quickly and with a high degree of precision to be edited, without leaving traces of foreign genetic material. The applications of gene editing are virtually endless, not least commercially, as are therefore the possible implications in terms of a host of (social, ethical, safety, environmental and security) risks.”

26 March: Michael Le Page Genome-editing record smashed with 13,000 edits made in one cell. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2197656-genome-editing-record-smashed-with-13000-edits-made-in-one-cell/ and https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/574020v1.

“A team has used CRISPR to make a record-breaking 13,200 changes to the DNA of a single human cell. The feat takes us a step closer to being able to thoroughly rewrite the genomes of our cells and other organisms.”

26 March: European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL). Detection of food and feed plant products obtained by new mutagenesis techniques. http://gmo-crl.jrc.ec.europa.eu/doc/JRC116289-GE-report-ENGL.pdf.

“The European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL) has reviewed the possibilities and challenges for the detection of food and feed plant products obtained by new directed mutagenesis techniques leading to genome editing. The focus of this report is on products of genome editing that do not contain any inserted recombinant DNA in the final plant. The procedures for the validation of detection methods as part of the market authorisation application process for genome-edited plant products will in principle be the same as for the current conventional GMOs. It is, however, questionable if event specific identification and quantitative detection methods can be developed readily for all genome-edited plants. For instance, detection methods for those plant products that are characterised by a non-unique DNA alteration will probably lack the specificity required to identify the genome-edited plant. Moreover, accurate quantification may be challenging if only changes of just one or a few basepairs are introduced.”

29 March: Megan Molteni CRISPR Gene Editing Could One Day Cut Away Human Painhttps://www.wired.com/story/crispr-gene-editing-could-one-day-cut-away-human-pain/.

“What if you could genetically edit out not just pain, but existential dread and angst from the human condition altogether?”

1 April: Sascha Karberg New rules for genome editing demanded FDP wants new genetic engineering lawshttps://m.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/neue-regeln-fuer-genome-editing-gefordert-fdp-will-neue-gentechnik-gesetze/24164974.html.

“The FDP Group wants to reopen the European and German genetic engineering legislation. In a motion in the Tagesspiegel, the Bundestag is called upon to decide that the Federal Government may “advocate a fundamental revision of EU genetic engineering law at European level” and also “adapt German genetic engineering law accordingly”. The occasion is the recent case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) of 25 July 2018, also new breeding methods such as using the gene scissors CRISPR / Cas9 or other genome-editing methods as under the release directive “2001/18 / EC” fall and to be regulated as “genetic engineering”. This means that even if Genome Editing brings about the same genetic change as a conventionally bred variety, only the genomed plant will have to undergo extensive, lengthy and costly safety testing prior to commercialization. The Liberals’ proposal therefore seeks to ensure that, at European level, “the long-term objective of breeding is placed at the center of the authorization assessment and thus the transition to a product-oriented authorization procedure is taken into due consideration of the actual risk levels for humans, animals and the environment “.

1 April: Tarek Bazley Mosquito scent discovery could change a billion lives — US researchers genetically modify mosquitoes making females less likely to spread diseases like dengue and Zika fever. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/mosquito-scent-discovery-change-billion-lives-190401082408931.html.

“Researchers in the United States have genetically modified mosquitoes to make humans less attractive to them — a discovery that could dramatically reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, malaria and Zika fever… The scientists identified a gene — known as Ir8a — expressed in the mosquito’s antenna. This gene appears to allow female mosquitoes, the ones that suck blood, to smell lactic acid, a particular acidic vapour in human sweat. Using advanced CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, the researchers were able to disrupt that gene, making the female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes significantly less interested in humans.”

1 April: Jon Cohen ‘Game-changing’ gene edit turned this anole lizard into an albino. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/game-changing-gene-edit-turned-anole-lizard-albino.

“The mighty genome editor CRISPR isn’t so powerful in lizards and snakes: Never before has it been used to edit the embryos of these reptiles. Now, researchers have come up with a workaround — by editing the immature, unfertilized eggs of brown anole lizards.”

2 April: Charlotte Harrison (paywall) Berkeley strikes back in CRISPR patent tussle https://www.nature.com/articles/s41587-019-0102-6.

“The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has alerted the University of California that a CRISPR-Cas9 patent application filed in 2013 is now about to be issued. The USPTO’s decision means that for now at least, both the University of California and the Broad Instituter of Harvard and MIT hold foundational patents for CRISPR-Cas9 technology.”

2 April: Charleston Noble, John Min, Jason Olejarz, et al. Daisy-chain gene drives for the alteration of local populations. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/04/01/1716358116 and

https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/04/gene-drives-can-controlled-new-modeling-suggests/.

“New scientific modeling suggests that gene drive technology can be controlled and kept from spreading unchecked when released into the environment.” “CRISPR-based gene drive systems — genetic elements which could be engineered to rapidly spread traits through wild populations — could help solve some of humanity’s greatest ecological and public health problems. However, if released, current versions might spread through a nontarget population — possibly across political borders — greatly complicating decision-making. To address this issue, we describe a self-exhausting form of CRISPR-based gene drive called a “daisy-chain drive.”

3 April: Amfora enters gene editing licensing agreement with Corteva — Biotech company developing food and feed products with increased protein content to address growing consumer health and environmental concerns. https://www.feedstuffs.com/news/amfora-enters-gene-editing-licensing-agreement-corteva & https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/04/04/biotech-firms-amfora-corteva-strike-deal-to-produce-crispr-edited-crops-to-meet-surging-protein-demand/

“Biotech firms Amfora, Corteva strike deal to produce CRISPR-edited crops to meet surging protein demand.”

3 April: John C. Rose, Nicholas A. Popp, Christopher D. Richardson, et al. Suppression of unwanted CRISPR/Cas9 editing by co-administration of catalytically inactivating truncated guide RNAshttps://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/597849v1.

“CRISPR/Cas9 nucleases are powerful genome engineering tools, but unwanted cleavage at off-target and previously edited sites remains a major concern. Numerous strategies to reduce unwanted cleavage have been devised, but all are imperfect. Here, we report off-target sites can be shielded from the active Cas9•single guide RNA (sgRNA) complex through the co-administration of dead-RNAs (dRNAs), truncated guide RNAs that direct Cas9 binding but not cleavage.”

4 April: Oliver Peoples Why now is the time for the convergence of agriculture and CRISPR technologyhttps://www.agdaily.com/technology/time-convergence-agriculture-crispr-technology/.

“The discussion and debate surrounding advances in agriculture have become frequent topics of discussion as the pros and cons of technologies like genetically engineered foods (often referred to as GMOs) and the use of organic versus non-organic agricultural methods continue to creep their way into consumer consciousness and the grocery aisle. However, now more than ever, the concept of genome editing a plant’s actual biological makeup using a precise method such as CRISPR is becoming more prevalent in the agtech conversation.”

8 April: Michigan Medicine — University of Michigan New DNA ‘shredder’ technique goes beyond CRISPR’s scissors. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190408161640.htm &

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1097276519302175?via%3Dihub.

“An international team has unveiled a new CRISPR-based tool that acts more like a shredder than the usual scissor-like action of CRISPR-Cas9. The new approach, based on Type I CRISPR-Cas3, is able to wipe out long stretches of DNA in human cells with programmable targeting, and has been shown to work in human cells for the first time.”

April 10: Jessica Pothering Europe’s Gene Editing Regulation Exposes the Messy Relationship Between Science and Politicshttps://agfundernews.com/europes-gene-editing-regulation-exposes-the-messy-relationship-between-science-and-politics.html.

“John van der Oost has a bone to pick with Europe. Van der Oost is a microbiologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His research in the late 1990s contributed to the development of the CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology which, among other gene editing tools, has the potential to produce climate-resilient crops to curing genetic diseases in humans to other genomic modifications in both people and animals. And he’s furious about a ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year that he and other proponents of gene editing say will dramatically slow Europe’s innovation in the field of crop science.”

April 15: Leena Tripathi, Valentine Otang Ntui, & Jaindra Nath Tripathi Application of genetic modification and genome editing for developing climate‐smart banana. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fes3.168 and

https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/04/crispr-approach-saving-banana/.

“Genome editing, an emerging powerful tool, can be applied for developing sustainable solutions to adapt to climate change by resisting biotic and abiotic stresses. CRISPR/Cas9‐based genome editing has been lately established for banana, paving the way for functional genomics allowing identification of genes associated with stress‐tolerant traits, which could be used for the improvement of banana for adaptation to a changing climate.”

April 15: VIB Permit for CRISPR maize field trial that aims to measure climate stress. http://www.vib.be/en/news/Pages/Permit-for-CRISPR-field-trial.aspx

“On April 12, 2019 VIB has been granted a permit for its field trial with maize plants that contain small surgical CRISPR-induced heritable changes. Obtaining this permit allows VIB to continue the field work that was already initiated in 2017.”

April 16: Adam Popescu This scientist thinks she has the key to curb climate change: super plants. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/16/super-plants-climate-change-joanne-chory-carbon-dioxide

““We’re trying to do something that’s a huge, complicated thing even though it sounds so simple,” Chory says. “Plants evolved to suck up CO2 and they’re really good at it. And they concentrate it, which no machine can do, and they make it into useful materials, like sugar. They suck up all the CO2, they fix it, then it goes back up into the atmosphere.” She is now working to design plants capable of storing even more carbon dioxide in their roots. Her Ideal Plant project uses gene editing — via traditional horticulture and Crispr — to do so. On a large scale, this could suck enough carbon out of the atmosphere to slow down climate change…This approach essentially supercharges what nature already does.”

April 16: Rob Stein First U.S. Patients Treated With CRISPR As Human Gene-Editing Trials Get Underwayhttps://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/04/16/712402435/first-u-s-patients-treated-with-crispr-as-gene-editing-human-trials-get-underway.

“…a U.S. CRISPR study that had been approved for cancer at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has finally started. A university spokesman on Monday confirmed for the first time that two patients had been treated using CRISPR. One patient had multiple myeloma, and one had sarcoma. Both had relapsed after undergoing standard treatment.”

April 16: Sarah Peyok Gene-Edited Foods Just Took a Big Step Toward Commercialization. https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2019/gene-edited-foods-just-took-big-step-toward-commercialization/83176.

“Agriculture technology (“agtech”) companies of all sizes are vying to enter commercial food markets. Last month, when news broke about the first successful food made with a gene-edited crop, some suggested this new technology could leave genetically modified foods (along with their controversies and regulations) “in the dust.” Various stories focused on the startup Calyxt’s first commercial sale of Calyno high oleic soybean oil to the foodservice industry. Now, the commercialization of gene-edited foods (or as Calyxt dubs it, “concept to fork”) is one step closer to reality.”

April 16: Joseph Opoku Gakpo Ghana’s anti-GMO groups urged to embrace gene editing technology. https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/04/ghanas-anti-gmo-groups-urged-embrace-gene-editing-technology/.

“Using CRISPR, the Innovative Genomics Institute has developed cocoa plants to withstand warmer conditions affecting our tropical rainforest, as well as resist viral and fungal diseases,” wrote Dr. Benjamin Senyo Bey, a scientist at the University of Calgary, Canada, in an article published in the Ghanaian media. “Given that Ghana is one of the leading producers of cocoa, but also experiencing increasing deforestation, why would somebody or a group of people resist the introduction of these cocoa varieties in Ghana?”

April 17: Jon Cohen Powerful CRISPR cousin accidentally mutates RNA while editing DNA target. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/powerful-crispr-cousin-accidentally-mutates-rna-while-editing-dna-target.

“When researchers first reported 3 years ago that they had created base editors, a version of the powerful genome-editing tool CRISPR, excitement swirled around their distinct powers to more subtly alter DNA compared with CRISPR itself. But the weaknesses of base editors have become increasingly apparent, and a new study shows they can also accidentally mutate the strands of RNA that help build proteins or perform other key cellular tasks. Researchers say this could complicate developing safe therapies with the technology and hamper other research applications.”

April 17: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Researchers use gene editing with CRISPR to treat lethal lung diseases before birth https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190417171025.htm

“Using CRISPR gene editing, researchers have thwarted a lethal lung disease in an animal model in which a harmful mutation causes death within hours after birth. This proof-of-concept study showed that in utero editing could be a promising new approach for treating lung diseases before birth.”

18 April: Joan Conrow A CRISPR Approach to Saving Banana https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/04/crispr-approach-saving-banana/.

“CRISPR/Cas9‐based genome editing is offering new hope for protecting a critical food security crop by developing climate-smart banana varieties. Research to identify the genes associated with stress‐tolerant traits and other uses of gene editing and genetic engineering to help banana varieties adapt to a changing climate is highlighted in an April 15 article published in Food and Energy Security, the journal of the Association of Applied Biologists.”

April 18: Emily Moon America’s Leading Animal Geneticist Wants to Talk to You About GMOs — Alison Van Eenennaam has spent the last decade explaining gene editing to critics who find fear more compelling than data. Is anybody listening? https://psmag.com/environment/americas-leading-animal-geneticist-wants-to-talk-to-you-about-gmos.

“It’s a crucial morning for the team, one of the only public-sector animal genetic-engineering labs left in the country. Inside the animal science building at the University of California–Davis, the scientists gather around the table in a small, beige-colored conference room decorated by pastoral illustrations of farm animals. The meeting has taken on a frenetic kind of gallows humor, the team joking like a bunch of giddy kids before a big test. Seated near the front of the table, Van Eenennaam runs a hand through her silvery-blond hair and leans back in her chair, commanding the room with ease. Her newest doctoral student, 24-year-old Maci Mueller, pulls up a PowerPoint slide intended to bring their lab manager up to speed. Her slides outline plans to make a “surrogate sire,” a gene-edited bull with the ability to pass on superior traits through generations.”

23 April: Smriti Mallapaty Australian gene-editing rules adopt ‘middle ground’ — Updated regulations allow scientists to use some genome-editing techniques in plants and animals without government approval https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01282-8.

“The Australian government will not regulate the use of gene-editing techniques in plants, animals and human cell lines that do not introduce new genetic material. The decision, announced on 10 April, is the result of a review of the country’s gene technology regulations.”

24 April: EuropaBio Over 20 EU business associations call for innovation-friendly rules on mutagenesis https://www.europabio.org/cross-sector/publications/over-20-eu-business-associations-call-innovation-friendly-rules. An open letter jointly calls upon member states and the EU Commission to initiate a legislative change to ensure that targeted genetic variation in organisms can help Europe to achieve important sustainable development goals.

“An open letter signed by over 20 European business organisations jointly calls upon member states and the EU Commission to initiate a legislative change that provides innovation-friendly rules, to ensure that targeted genetic variation in organisms, including crops and other organisms, can help Europe to achieve important sustainable development goals. They highlight widely shared concerns amongst numerous other stakeholders, including scientists and academics, stemming from the 25 July 2018 Court of Justice of the EU ruling on mutagenesis, which equates products developed using targeted forms of mutagenesis with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), thereby subjecting them to disproportionate regulation when compared to other parts of the world. In addition to stressing the unworkability of the CJEU’s ruling, they explain that more practical and science-based rules would foster public confidence and trust, as well as unlock great potential for innovative, bio-based solutions in sectors ranging from agriculture and food to healthcare and energy, thereby contributing to Europe’s resilience to climate change, whilst providing benefits to consumers, patients and the environment.”

30 April: Joshua Young, Gina Zastrow-Hayes, Stéphane Deschamps, et al. CRISPR-Cas9 Editing in Maize: Systematic Evaluation of Off-target Activity and Its Relevance in Crop Improvement https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43141-6.

“CRISPR-Cas9 enabled genome engineering has great potential for improving agriculture productivity, but the possibility of unintended off-target edits has evoked some concerns. Here we employ a three-step strategy to investigate Cas9 nuclease specificity in a complex plant genome. Our approach pairs computational prediction with genome-wide biochemical off-target detection followed by validation in maize plants. Our results reveal high frequency (up to 90%) on-target editing with no evidence of off-target cleavage activity when guide RNAs were bioinformatically predicted to be specific. Predictable off-target edits were observed but only with a promiscuous guide RNA intentionally designed to validate our approach. Off-target editing can be minimized by designing guide RNAs that are different from other genomic locations by at least three mismatches in combination with at least one mismatch occurring in the PAM proximal region. With well-designed guides, genetic variation from Cas9 off-target cleavage in plants is negligible, and much less than inherent variation.”

30 April: Greg Neely How we used CRISPR to narrow in on a possible antidote to box jellyfish venom https://theconversation.com/how-we-used-crispr-to-narrow-in-on-a-possible-antidote-to-box-jellyfish-venom-116283.

“Published today, our new research has uncovered a potential antidote for box jellyfish venom. By working with humans cells and the gene-editing tool CRISPR, we identified a common, cheap drug that is already on the market and which could be a candidate for treating box jellyfish stings.”

3 May: CRISPR Under Control: Small-Molecule Inhibitors of Cas9 Identified https://www.genengnews.com/news/crispr-under-control-small-molecule-inhibitors-of-cas9-identified/.

“These studies lay the foundation for the rapid identification and use of small-molecule inhibitors against both SpCas9 and next-generation CRISPR-associated nucleases,” said Amit Choudhary, PhD, of the Broad Institute. “Small-molecule inhibitors targeting CRISPR-associated nucleases have the potential for widespread use in basic, biomedical, and defense research, as well as in biotechnological applications.”

9 May: Amanda Mah More Than a Gene Editor: CRISPR as an Imaging Tool https://www.synthego.com/blog/crispr-imaging

“Scientists are using the principles of CRISPR and its components to visualize the three-dimensional organization of cellular components in real time.”

9 May: Leon Vlieger The Inquisitive Biologist Book Review — Hacking the Code of Life: How Gene Editing Will Rewrite Our Futures https://inquisitivebiologist.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/book-review-hacking-the-code-of-life-how-gene-editing-will-rewrite-our-futures/.

“For people in a hurry, Nessa Carey here provides a primer on the powers and pitfalls of gene editing. Hacking the Code of Life is accessible to readers without much background in genetics, focusing more on the applications and the questions it raises than the nitty-gritty details of the tool itself.”

10 May: Wang Xiaoyu Gene editing reassuring for safety of crops http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201905/10/WS5cd4cd65a3104842260bade3.htmlScientists say China should follow other countries in removing market barriers.

““In essence, gene editing technology is no different from natural mutations that take place in nature all the time,” Zhu said. “The same result can also be achieved through traditional plant breeding, but gene editing is more precise.” …In Jinan, Shandong province, an industrial base devoted to developing gene-edited plants with advice from Zhu’s team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is on track to roll out roughly 50 species within about six years… crop developers need greater flexibility than what the current regulatory mechanism allows, Zhao said…”

14 May: Olga Dobridova Russia joins in global gene-editing bonanza — A US$1.7-billion programme aims to develop 30 gene-edited plant and animal varieties in the next decade https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01519-6.

“Russia is embracing gene-editing. A 111-billion-rouble (US$1.7-billion) federal programme aims to create 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 — and another 20 by 2027.”

15 May: First Gene-Editing Competitiveness roundtable in Argentina http://news.agropages.com/News/Detail-30438.htm.

“Last week, the AgroIndustry Secretariat run the first roundtable on the competitiveness of the gene-editing industry. The meeting was headed by secretary Luis Miguel Etchevehere, which said he is proud about the Argentine regulatory system on biotechnology and gene editing, remembering the audience that the Biotechnology National Advisor Committee (Conabia) was reelected by the FAO as Reference Centre. The Secretariat invited representatives from the local gene-editing industry, regulatory affairs consultants, and agricultural counselors from foreign countries, like the US, Spain, Germany, the EU, China, Brazil, and Paraguay. The National Agriculture Technology Institute (INTA) was represented by Sergio Feingold, while Simplot Company was represented by Juan Pablo Burzaco, Regulatory Affairs manager. “One of the critical points is how the world will harmonize the regulatory system on the gene-editing technology and its products”, National Biotechnology director Martin Lema said in a dialogue with eFarmNewsAr.com. “Our regulatory scheme inspirited the Chilean, Brazilian and Colombian ones, and in a few days Paraguay will publish its own”, Lema added.”

15 May: Kostas Vavitsas Meet CRISPR’s new small molecule inhibitor https://synbiobeta.com/meet-crisprs-new-small-molecule-inhibitor/.

“There are several applications that could benefit from CRISPR inhibitors. As CRISPR/Cas9 has off-target effects, limiting the activity time window can increase its precision. In particular for germline editing applications, modulated editing can decrease mosaicism — organisms consisting of cells with different genotypes, caused by off-target mutations. In cell-free CRISPR applications, the ability to switch CRISPR on and off offers design flexibility. In medical applications, controlled inhibition can reduce CRISPR-associated cellular toxicity by activating the protein only when it is needed.”

16 May: Science News Genus shares surge on deal to market gene-edited pigs in China https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-genus-plc/genus-shares-surge-on-deal-to-market-gene-edited-pigs-in-china-idUSKCN1SM121 & http://ir.q4europe.com/Tools/newsArticleHTML.aspx?solutionID=3694&customerKey=Genus&storyID=14316221

“BEIJING (Reuters) — British livestock genetics firm Genus agreed on Thursday to license its know-how on virus-resistant pigs to Beijing Capital Agribusiness Co Ltd, which will seek regulatory approval for the pigs in the world’s biggest pork market. Genus has a global patent for commercialisation of pigs genetically edited to resist Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), also known as blue-ear disease, which causes billion-dollar losses for the global pig industry each year. Under the deal, BCA will set up Beijing Shou Nong Future Bio-Tech Co. Ltd that will fund the development of the market and seek approval for commercial production of pigs resistant to the virus. This is expected to take several years and cost tens of millions of dollars, said Genus in a statement.”

21 May: Gerardo Fortuna [European] Commission in search of ‘robust response’ to gene editing challenge https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/commission-in-search-of-robust-response-to-gene-editing-challenge/.

“What Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has done is to continue to get the legal advice from the Commission to evaluate the outcome” of the European Court of Justice ruling on new plant breeding techniques, Hogan said after a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 14 May. Meanwhile, he said the Commission has asked EU member states to provide the necessary data in order to help the EU executive to come up with a “robust response” to the EU court’s ruling and draft a legislative response for the next Commission.”

21 May: Washington Post Editorial Board We have the technology to customize our babies. It needs regulation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/we-have-the-technology-to-customize-our-babies-it-needs-regulation/2019/05/21/ce6c554c-50b0-11e9-88a1-ed346f0ec94f_story.html

“A commentary in the journal Nature has called for a global, temporary moratorium on clinical uses of human germline editing, defined as “changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children.” The moratorium could be hard to enforce, but it would offer a breather to sort out scientific and ethical issues… The authors suggest that a goal might be some kind of international research framework. Genome editing ultimately can affect all humankind, but any regulation must be sensitive to individual nations and societies — not an easy task.”

21 May: Cathie Anderson Is genetic editing safe? UC Davis center will test new tools using $9 million NIH grant https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article230656054.html.

“Primate researchers at the University of California, Davis, will be testing the safety and efficacy of gene editing tools that they expect will have future applications in humans, work that the university said Monday is being financed by $9 million from the National Institutes of Health.”

23 May: Peter Bickerton and Nicola Patron The case for the UK to embrace gene edited crops http://www.earlham.ac.uk/articles/case-uk-embrace-gene-edited-crops

“Gene editing could allow incredible crop improvements, with the potential to reduce the harmful impact of agrochemicals on biodiversity while boosting yield. However, the recent European Court of Justice ruling that gene editing be regarded the same as GM poses a huge barrier to farmers and hamstrings European science.”

23 May: Max Planck Society Max Planck Society publishes statement on genome editing — Scientists reject altering human germline at the present time https://www.mpg.de/13509523/genome-editing-statement-mpg.

“The rapid development of CRISPR/Cas technology and other genome-editing techniques raises a variety of scientific, legal and ethical questions. The Max Planck Society has decided to contribute the expertise of its scientists to foster scientific and societal debate on the subject. It has therefore formulated its position on genome editing in a position paper. The paper considers the current state of our knowledge insufficient to justify, among other things, modifying the human germline. It also calls for European legislation to be adapted to the current state of research and for plants with edited genetic material to be no longer be classified as genetically modified if they imitate the natural process of mutagenesis. “The position paper reflects the great potential of genome editing and the ethical and legal challenges it poses. The Max Planck Society wants to show how science can use this potential responsibly in order to gain important insights for the benefit of society, especially with regard to new applications in the fields of medicine and nutrition,” says Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society.”

24 May: Gerardo Fortuna 14 EU countries call for ‘unified approach’ to gene editing in plants https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/14-eu-countries-call-for-unified-approach-to-gene-editing-in-plants/.

“The Netherlands and Estonia are leading a coalition of 14 EU member states calling on the next European Commission to update EU GMO laws with regard to so-called new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs)… In their opinion, an update has become necessary after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a ruling last year saying organisms obtained by mutagenesis should be considered GMOs and therefore subject to the safety and marketing obligations laid down in the EU’s GMO directive. In a note to EU farm ministers, the Dutch delegation also reminded that organisms obtained by mutagenesis have been used in farming for many years and have a long safety track record. Until last year’s ruling, NPBTs were exempt from the GMO directive. EU countries were free to decide whether to subject them or not to the obligations laid down in the GMO directive. The European Commission promised after the Agriculture Council that it will come up with a “robust response” to the EU court ruling and draft a legislative proposal in due time. “I expect that a new initiative will be required in the next Commission,” said EU agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan in a press conference after the meeting.”

27 May: Arlene Weintraub Fred Hutchinson team uses gold nanoparticles to improve CRISPR gene editing https://www.fiercebiotech.com/research/fred-hutch-team-uses-gold-nanoparticles-to-improve-crispr-gene-editing.

“Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center… developed gold nanoparticles that can be packed with all the CRISPR components necessary to make clean gene edits. When they tested the gold nanoparticles in lab models of inherited blood disorders and HIV, between 10% and 20% of the targeted cells were successfully edited, with no toxic side effects… “We engineered the gold nanoparticles to quickly cross the cell membrane, dodge cell organelles that seek to destroy them and go right to the cell nucleus to edit genes,” said Reza Shahbazi, Ph.D., a Fred Hutchinson postdoctoral researcher, in a statement.”

3 June: Kate Kelland Scientists edit chicken genes to make them resistant to bird flu https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-birdflu-chickens/scientists-edit-chicken-genes-to-make-them-resistant-to-bird-flu-idUSKCN1T41E9.

“Scientists in Britain have used gene-editing techniques to stop bird flu spreading in chicken cells grown in a lab — a key step towards making genetically-altered chickens that could halt a human flu pandemic.”

6 June: The Roslin Institute Gene-edited chicken cells resist bird flu virus — Scientists have used gene-editing techniques to stop the bird flu virus from spreading in chicken cells grown in the lab. https://www.ed.ac.uk/roslin/news-events/latest-news/gene-edited-chicken-cells-resist-bird-flu-virus

“Scientists have used gene-editing techniques to stop the virus from spreading in chicken cells grown in the lab. The findings raise the possibility of producing gene-edited chickens that are resistant to the disease.”

11 June: The White House Executive Order on Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-modernizing-regulatory-framework-agricultural-biotechnology-products/

“Recent advances in biotechnology have the potential to revolutionize agriculture and thereby enhance rural prosperity and improve the quality of American lives. Biotechnology can help the Nation meet its food production needs, raise the productivity of the American farmer, improve crop and animal characteristics, increase the nutritional value of crop and animal products, and enhance food safety. In order to realize these potential benefits, however, the United States must employ a science-based regulatory system that evaluates products based on human health and safety and potential benefits and risks to the environment. Such a system must both foster public confidence in biotechnology and avoid undue regulatory burdens.”

13 June: Lauren Martz GSK teams up with Doudna, Weissman labs to create CRISPR genomics center — How GSK’s newest CRISPR lab will advance the technology while b oosting the PHARMA’s R&D capabilities https://www.biocentury.com/bc-innovations/translation-brief/2019-06-13/how-gsks-new-crispr-lab-will-advance-technology-while-.

“GlaxoSmithKline’s latest move to reinvigorate R&D is a collaboration with two of the biggest names in CRISPR research to develop new gene editing technologies and use them to identify drug targets. GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE:GSK; NYSE:GSK) teamed up with the labs of Jennifer Doudna at the University of California Berkeley and Jonathan Weissman at the University of California San Francisco to form the Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR), a physical laboratory near UCSF’s Mission Bay campus that will bring together investigators from all three partners.”

19 June: The Bench CRISPR: A Solution to the Global Energy Crisis? https://www.synthego.com/blog/crispr-bioenergy

“CRISPR is a remarkable genome editing tool that has been revolutionizing research in every industry, and bioenergy is no exception. The recent advances in CRISPR indicate that perhaps this technology may save the day by offering a solution to the energy crisis in the future. In this post, we will discuss the basic concepts of what bioenergy is and how CRISPR is being used in this area.”

21 June: Marcel Kunz “Has Europe already lost the battle for new biotechnologies?” https://www.lopinion.fr/edition/economie/marcel-kuntz-cnrs-europe-a-t-elle-deja-perdu-bataille-nouvelles-190521

“The new biotechnologies, called “editing” of genes (or rewriting genes) are now present in the basic research laboratories of biology. Various applied domains also seem promising. However, optimism on this topic was showered with a decision last year by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) stating that the organisms obtained by these new technologies, including mutagenesis (the simplest use of gene editing), which is sometimes indistinguishable from natural mutations, should be regulated as GMOs. As a result, the EU directive on GMOs could again rein in innovation, as is the case with classical transgenesis. Plant breeding companies are considering relocating their mutagenesis programs outside Europe “if nothing is done to change EU rules”.”

25 June: Victor Tangermann Gene-edited, less addictive tobacco could help you quit smoking https://futurism.com/the-byte/gene-edited-less-addictive-tobacco-smoking.

“A team of scientists from the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany have figured out a way to grow tobacco plants that contain 99.7 percent less nicotine. They used the popular gene-editing technique CRISPR to disable six enzymes in the plant that aid in the production of the addictive stimulant. According to the researchers, the new version has just 0.04 milligrams of nicotine per gram — almost undetectable. Their research was published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal earlier this month.”

2 July: Brittany Flaherty Researchers use CRISPR to eliminate HIV in mice https://www.statnews.com/2019/07/02/crispr-hiv-eliminated-in-mice/.

“The most advanced drugs for HIV suppress the virus, essentially rendering it a chronic disease — but none can cure the infection. Now, a team of scientists has cleared HIV from infected mice using the CRISPR gene-editing tool in what may be the first time the virus has been eliminated from the genomes of living animals.”

4 July: Elinor Hortle Why the ‘molecular scissors’ metaphor for understanding CRISPR is misleading https://theconversation.com/why-the-molecular-scissors-metaphor-for-understanding-crispr-is-misleading-119812.

“…the molecular scissors metaphor is pretty damn accurate as far as it goes. But in focusing on the relatively simple relationship between CRISPR and DNA, we miss the far more complicated relationship between DNA and the rest of the body. This metaphor ignores an entire ecosystem of moving parts that are crucial for understanding the awe-inspiring, absolutely insane thing scientists are trying to do when they attempt gene editing. I prefer the metaphor of malware. In my research I use CRISPR from time to time. To design experiments and interpret results effectively, I need a solid way to conceptualise what it can (and can’t) do. I do not think of CRISPR as molecular scissors. Instead I imagine a city. The greater metropolis represents the body, the suburbs are organs, the buildings are cells, the people are proteins, and the internet is DNA. In this metaphor CRISPR is malware. More precisely, CRISPR is malware that can search for any chosen 20-character line of code and corrupt it. This is not a perfect metaphor by any stretch, but it gets me closer to understanding than almost anything else.”

5 July: Jennifer Shike Could Genome Editing Eliminate Need for Surgical Castration of Swine? https://www.porkbusiness.com/article/could-genome-editing-eliminate-need-surgical-castration-swine

“Recombinetics/Acceligen and Hendrix Genetics have successfully used a genome editing method to create swine that remain in a pre-pubertal state, thus eliminating the need for surgical castration, according to a release from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). “The first litter of castration-free prototype piglets using commercially relevant genetics confirms the methodology is working,” FFAR said.”

6 July: Amir Hameed, Muhammad Aamer Mehmood, Muhammad Shahid, et al. Prospects for potato genome editing to engineer resistance against viruses and cold-induced sweetening, GM Crops & Food DOI: 10.1080/21645698.2019.1631115

“…CRISPR technology is predicted to reduce the cost of potato production and is likely to pass through the regulatory process being marker and transgene-free. The current review summarizes the potential application of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for traits improvement in potato. Moreover, the prospects for engineering resistance against potato fungal pathogens and current limitations/challenges are discussed.”

11 July: Justin Cremer Activists slow to embrace gene editing that benefits animal welfare https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/07/activists-slow-embrace-gene-editing-benefits-animal-welfare/.

“Though researchers are turning to gene editing to address animal welfare issues, it appears that activists remain lukewarm to that use of the technology. Hornless dairy cows, disease-resistant swine and poultry, male pigs that never reach puberty and cattle that can better tolerate heat are some of the projects now in the works to reduce suffering among livestock. Animal welfare groups, however, are treading carefully and appear hesitant to embrace precision breeding, even when it’s intended to spare livestock from painful procedures. This raises the question of whether they’ll ever endorse research aimed at improving conditions for livestock under the current methods of agricultural production.”

12 July: Kristin Houser Scientists gene edit plants to be better at carbon capture https://futurism.com/the-byte/scientists-gene-editing-plants-carbon-capture.

“While some scientists are focusing on mechanical solutions to carbon capture, researchers at the Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative are taking a more organic approach, by looking for ways to optimize plants’ natural ability to capture and store carbon — and they just discovered a gene that could be a game-changer.”

12 July: Zachery Eanes This RTP startup is using gene editing to improve crops, from corn to raspberries https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article232437938.html.

“As Tom Adams sees it, there are two main problems in the world related to food. There are those who don’t have enough of it and there are others that have too much of the wrong stuff. He’s hoping his startup, nestled near the center of Research Triangle Park, can be a part of changing that equation. Just over a year old, Pairwise is at the forefront of agriculture technology, creating experimental crops that might one day show up on the shelves at your grocery store. The company uses CRISPR technology — most famous for its controversial use by a Chinese scientist in an attempt to make two unborn children resistant to HIV — to create plants that are, in the words of Pairwise’s head of trait development, Mike Mann, “more affordable, attainable and also convenient.” Adams, the company’s CEO, thinks if they can improve produce in slight ways, it will help people “go to the produce aisle instead of the potato chip aisle.””

13 July: Rod A. Herman, Maria Fedorova, Nicholas P. Storer Will Following the Regulatory Script for GMOs Promote Public Acceptance of Gene-Edited Crops? https://www.cell.com/trends/biotechnology/fulltext/S0167-7799(19)30156-8

“Risk-disproportionate regulation of gene-edited crops has been proposed to gain public acceptance for this breeding technique. However, confounding safety regulations with advocacy for an underlying technology risks weakening achievement of both objectives. Dedicated factual communication and education from trusted sources is likely to better support public acceptance of gene-edited crops.”

16 July: Jef Akst US Senators Call for International Guidelines for Germline Editing https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/us-senators-call-for-international-guidelines-for-germline-editing-66162

“Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a resolution yesterday (July 15) calling for global collaboration in developing guidelines for the use of gene editing technologies in the context of reproduction. The senators specifically pledge their support for the international commission established in May by the US National Academy of Medicine, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of the UK to develop a framework for scientific research into the use of germline editing, and encourages the US Secretary of State to help “forge an international consensus regarding the limits of ethical clinical use of genome-edited human embryos.”

20 July: Naaman Zhou Taking the sting out: Australian gene editing is crossing the pain threshold — A Sydney team has developed a box jellyfish antidote so simple it can go on as a spray. But it’s only the first step https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/21/taking-the-sting-out-australian-gene-editing-is-crossing-the-pain-threshold.

“In May, the Sydney-based scientist and his team of 22 announced they had potentially cured the sting of the box jellyfish, the most venomous creature in the world, whose toxins cause excruciating pain as a best-case scenario, and cardiac arrest as the worst. It was a simple but groundbreaking technique, using the latest in genetics technology — Crispr, the gene-editing tool that allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA.”

23 July: Ron Bailey E.U. Regulators Can’t Detect the Gene-Edited Crops They Banned The difference between two identical genes — one edited and the other a natural mutation — is entirely metaphysical. https://reason.com/2019/07/23/e-u-regulators-cant-detect-the-gene-edited-crops-they-banned/.

“The European Court of Justice ruled last summer that the European Union’s absurd regulatory scheme for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be applied to gene-edited crops. Such regulations, however, are scientifically nonsensical. GMO crops (typically modified by adding genes from other organisms)and gene-edited crops (using techniques like CRISPR to modify genes already in the crop variety) are safe for people and for the environment. Such crops need no more regulation than do crops created via conventional techniques such as crossbreeding or random mutation by blasting them with ionizing radiation and harsh chemicals. Now foods labs are telling would-be E.U. regulators that there are no tests that can reliably distinguish between gene-edited and conventional crop varieties. Why? Because many of the edited genes are indistinguishable from those in naturally occurring organisms. Consequently, E.U. regulators are worried that gene-edited horrors from the U.S., such as Calyxt’s healthy high-oleic-acid oil or Intrexon’s non-browning lettuce, might sneak into European supermarkets undetected.”

23 July: Heide Ledford CRISPR conundrum: Strict European court ruling leaves food-testing labs without a plan https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02162-x

“A landmark European court ruling that made gene-edited crops subject to the same stringent regulations as other genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has created a conundrum for food-testing laboratories across Europe. The ruling that the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) delivered on 25 July 2018 requires these scattered laboratories — which already spot-check freighters and supermarkets for foods that contain unapproved GMOs — to look for gene-edited crops. But there is no easy way to do this. Gene edits often alter just a few DNA letters, whereas conventional genetic modifications often involve transplanting longer stretches of DNA from one species to another. “Some of these [gene-editing] alterations are small enough that they are simply indistinguishable from naturally occurring organisms,” says Martin Wasmer, who studies the legal aspects of genome editing at the Leibniz University Hannover, Germany. “It will not be possible to enforce in those cases.” Scientists struggle to detect the unauthorized sale of gene-edited crops whose altered DNA can mimic natural mutations.”

24 July: Mateusz Perkowski USDA clears gene-edited, virus-resistant tomatoes https://www.capitalpress.com/nation_world/usda-clears-gene-edited-virus-resistant-tomatoes/article_375a039e-ae38-11e9-b0dd-47a18a6c6225.html.

“Gene-edited tomatoes that are resistant to common viruses can be introduced into the U.S. without coming under federal regulations for genetically engineered plants. The USDA has determined that six tomato lines developed by Nexgen Plants of Australia aren’t potential plant pests and thus don’t fall under the agency’s jurisdiction for regulating biotech crops. Nexgen altered the tomatoes with “particle bombardment” of gene sequences that allows the plants to detect and destroy the tomato spotted wilt virus and cauliflower mosaic virus.”

25 July: VIB European scientists ask the EU Parliament and EU Commission reconsider genome editing for sustainable agriculture and food production LINK

“European scientists urgently reach out to the newly elected European Parliament and European Commission to enable the potential of genome editing for sustainable agriculture and food production… The European scientific community, signatory to this Open Statement, urgently calls upon the European institutions including the European Council, the new European Parliament and the upcoming European Commission to take appropriate legal action to enable European scientists and breeders to apply genome editing for sustainable agriculture and food. The ability to use genome editing is crucial for the well-fare and food security of European citizens.”

25 July: Umeå Plant Science Centre Scientists call for new European regulations for genetically modified organisms https://www.upsc.se/about-upsc/news/5605-scientists-call-for-new-european-regulations-for-genetically-modified-organisms.html

“Today, on the anniversary of the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on plant breeding with the help of gen-editing, an open letter was sent to the Swedish European parliamentarians and the Swedish government. The letter is a call to action for an expedited change of the European legislation for genetically modified organisms (GMO). It has been signed by the leaders of 14 Swedish universities/research centres, royal science academies or research financiers as representatives of the independent Swedish research community.”

25 July: Kemal Malik Genome editing: Europe can embrace innovation while assuring safety — Bayer calls on the College of Commissioners for a cross-functional platform where parties can discuss a way forward for genome editing. https://www.politico.eu/sponsored-content/genome-editing-europe-can-embrace-innovation-while-assuring-safety/.

“Having learned about the need to reconsider well-entrenched ways of thinking from past debates on the regulation of new technologies, we support initiatives that advance a broad stakeholder and societal debate on the future use of genome editing in Europe… Bayer, along with leading scientists, asks for an EU-wide regulatory approach to genome-edited plants that considers not only the technical process of breeding and development, but, more importantly, the end product of that process too.”

25 July: Marilynn Marchione First CRISPR study inside the body to start in US https://apnews.com/132d29e760834699b12c0c5b0a77e4c0

“Patients are about to be enrolled in the first study to test a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR inside the body to try to cure an inherited form of blindness. People with the disease have normal eyes but lack a gene that converts light into signals to the brain that enable sight. The experimental treatment aims to supply kids and adults with a healthy version of the gene they lack, using a tool that cuts or “edits” DNA in a specific spot. It’s intended as a onetime treatment that permanently alters the person’s native DNA.”

29 July: Jon Cohen To feed its 1.4 billion, China bets big on genome editing of crops https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/feed-its-14-billion-china-bets-big-genome-editing-crops.

“IN BEIJING AND DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA — If Gao Caixia were a farmer, she might be spread a little thin. Down the hall from her office at a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) here in Beijing, seeds from a strain of unusually soft rice and a variety of wheat with especially fat grains and resistance to a common fungus sprout in a tissue culture room. A short stroll away, wild tomato plants far hardier than domestic varieties but bearing the same sweet fruit crowd a greenhouse, along with herbicide-resistant corn and potatoes that are slow to brown when cut. In other lab rooms Gao grows new varieties of lettuce, bananas, ryegrass, and strawberries. But Gao isn’t a farmer, and that cornucopia isn’t meant for the table — not yet, anyway. She is a plant scientist working at the leading edge of crop improvement. Every one of those diverse crops has been a target for conventional plant breeders, who have slowly and painstakingly worked to endow them with traits to make them more productive, nutritious, or hardy. But Gao is improving them at startling speeds by using the genome editor CRISPR.

29 July: Rob Stein Sickle Cell Patient Reveals Why She Is Volunteering For Landmark Gene-Editing Study https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/29/744826505/sickle-cell-patient-reveals-why-she-is-volunteering-for-landmark-gene-editing-st

“Victoria Gray is waiting patiently in a hospital room at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. “It’s a good time to get healed,” she says. The 34-year-old from Forest, Miss., has struggled with sickle cell disease throughout her life. Gray is at the hospital because she volunteered for one of the most anticipated medical experiments in decades: the first attempt to use the gene-editing technique CRISPR to treat a genetic disorder in the U.S. She’s the first patient ever to be publicly identified as being involved in such a study. “I always had hoped that something will come along,” Gray says in an exclusive interview with NPR. “It is just amazing how far things have come. I just want to kind of help bring awareness to this disease and let other people know that there is hope.””

29 July: Hanae Armitage CRISPR algorithm predicts how well gene editing will work https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2019/07/29/crispr-algorithm-predicts-how-well-gene-editing-will-work/

“Now, using the power of machine learning, James Zou, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical data science, and collaborators have created an algorithm that predicts what type of mistakes are likely to occur during CRISPR editing. A paper detailing the work appears in Nature Biotechnology.”

31 July: Jon Cohen China’s CRISPR push in animals promises better meat, novel therapies, and pig organs for people https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/china-s-crispr-push-animals-promises-better-meat-novel-therapies-and-pig-organs-people.

“China now has at least four groups of CRISPR researchers doing gene editing with large colonies of monkeys. “The most startling part of what is coming out of China is seeing how they have just a brute-force approach,” says reproductive biologist Jon Hennebold at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro. “The level of animal support they have to do those experiments is really astounding.” It’s not just monkeys. China’s researchers have racked up a long list of CRISPR firsts in dogs, mice, rats, pigs, and rabbits. That research promises higher quality meats, disease-resistant livestock, and new medical treatments and organs for human transplantation. So far, many of the animals are simply proofs of concept. Despite the multitude of CRISPR-altered monkeys, for example, Chinese teams have published “very little follow-up in terms of characterizing what these mutations mean from a [disease] model or a treatment perspective,” Hennebold says.”

31 July: Sharon Begley The latest CRISPR patent fight is on. So is the mudslinging https://www.statnews.com/2019/07/31/latest-crispr-patent-fight-mudslinging/

“The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard lied about who invented the use of CRISPR genome editing in animal cells, and its lead CRISPR scientist Feng Zhang made statements to the patent office that he knew were “untrue,” attorneys for the University of California and its partners claim in legal documents filed Tuesday night with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In strikingly tough language, the lawyers accused the Broad of trying to “deceive the Office” in order to win patents on the revolutionary technology, claimed another Broad scientist made a “materially false declaration” about when Zhang’s lab got CRISPR to work, and argued that Zhang didn’t know what molecules the genome editor needed until he read a rival’s key paper — all of which makes Zhang’s work “unpatentable.””

2 August: Jon Cohen, Nirja Desai With its CRISPR revolution, China becomes a world leader in genome editing https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/its-crispr-revolution-china-becomes-world-leader-genome-editing.

“The lights are burning late at CRISPR labs around the world. In 2012, the year researchers transformed a bacterial immune system into the fast and versatile tool for genome engineering, scientific publications mentioning CRISPR totaled 127. Since then there have been more than 14,000. Although the United States has had the most CRISPR publications — and continues to have the most cited papers — China is now a close second and is pouring money into CRISPR’s uses. With support from the Pulitzer Center, Science visited scientists in five Chinese cities who are harnessing CRISPR in a wide range of disciplines. China’s biggest push is in agriculture but researchers there are also applying the editor on a large scale in animals, with pig organs for human transplants the most provocative goal. And China is aggressively exploring genome editing in medicine, having launched far more clinical trials using CRISPR, mainly for cancer, than any country.”

8 August 2019: Jose A. Bernat Crispr Can Help Solve Our Looming Food Crisis — Here’s How — There’s not enough land to feed everyone on Earth without ruining the climate, a new IPCC report shows. Gene-edited crops could help reduce agriculture’s footprint. https://www.wired.com/story/gene-editing-food-climate-change/?verso=true.

“To have a shot at truly combating climate change, countries around the world are going to have to finally face the dirt-encrusted, fertilizer-soaked, methane-farting elephant in the room: agriculture… And though far from a cure-all, the potential for gene editing to make every acre of land more productive even in the face of climate change has captured the imagination of plant scientists, the agtech industry, and governments alike. These days, they’re placing ever-bigger bets on Crispr’s ability to future-proof the world’s food supply from the threats of an increasingly unpredictable environment.”

10 August: Nuño Domínguez Scientists rebel against European transgenic law — Thousands of researchers require the EU to remove obstacles to genetic editing to create fruits and vegetables more nutritious and resistant to climate change https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/08/07/ciencia/1565191737_505932.html

“A few weeks ago, scientists from 127 research institutes across Europe that group some 25,000 scientists demanded that the EU authorities urgently change the legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), transgenics. In an open letter addressed to the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council, scientists warn that the current regulation leaves Europe out of play in the face of the possibility of designing new plant varieties using CRISPR to create “sustainable agriculture” in the context of climate change with drought-resistant varieties that need less water and pesticides. “The ability to use genetic editing is crucial for the well-being and food security of European citizens,” the text claimed.”

13 August: Ricki Lewis How a one-time CRISPR shot could obliterate lower back pain https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/08/13/how-a-one-time-crispr-shot-could-obliterate-lower-back-pain/

“Imagine a single injection that quells the inflammation behind lower back pain — perhaps forever. CRISPR may make that possible by dampening the immune system’s cytokine signals, according to a report in the July issue of Human Gene Therapy.”

14 August: Tina Hesman Saey CRISPR enters its first human clinical trials: The gene editor targets cancer, blood disorders and blindness https://www.sciencenews.org/article/crispr-gene-editor-first-human-clinical-trials.

“In the first spate of clinical trials, scientists are using CRISPR/Cas9 to combat cancer and blood disorders in people. In these tests, researchers remove some of a person’s cells, edit the DNA and then inject the cells back in, now hopefully armed to fight disease. Researchers are also set to see how CRISPR/Cas9 works inside the human body. In an upcoming trial, people with an inherited blindness will have the molecular scissors injected into their eyes. Those tests, if successful, could spur future trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and a wide variety of other genetic diseases, affecting millions of people worldwide.”

20 August: Steve Cerier Viewpoint: Organic food movement ‘shoots itself in the foot’ by rejecting CRISPR gene editing https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/08/20/viewpoint-organic-food-movement-shoots-itself-in-the-foot-by-rejecting-crispr-gene-editing/

“While most organic food producers view rejection of technology as a way to set their “natural” products apart from the conventional alternatives, they have miscalculated the importance of plant breeding advances and may put themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage as a result. NBTs are beginning to radically improve food production, yielding products that appeal to both consumers and farmers. This feat cannot be replicated by organic growing practices.”

21 August Masatoshi Toda Rain-resistant wheat variety developed using genome editing http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201908210010.html.

“Scientists have created a rain-resistant wheat variety using genome-editing technology, a breakthrough that could lead to the development of higher-quality flour. The research team from the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) and Okayama University said genome editing enabled them to develop the variety in just about a year. It takes nearly 10 years to develop such a wheat species using conventional breeding technology because the plants must be bred over generations. The wheat used for the study is not a species currently sold on the market, but the team believes the method utilized could someday succeed in developing an edible variety resistant to rain. “The variety we developed has excellent properties, so we’ll use it as a parent to create new species through breeding,” a team member said.”

22 August: Antonio Regalado The next trick for CRISPR is gene-editing pain away — A family of street performers could walk on coals. Here’s how the secret of why they felt no pain could benefit others https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614210/the-next-trick-for-crispr-is-gene-editing-pain-away/.

“The street performer was only 10 years old. He put knives through his arms and walked on hot embers. By 14 he was dead. Someone dared him to jump from a roof. He did it, knowing it wouldn’t hurt. The case of the Pakistani boy with a rare genetic disorder was described in 2006. He could feel warmth and cold and the texture of objects. But he never felt pain. Now scientists have paired the discovery with the gene-editing tool CRISPR, in what they say is a step toward a gene therapy that could block severe pain caused by diabetes, cancer, or car accidents without the addictive effects of opioids.”

23 August Steven H. Strauss, Wout Boerjan, Vincent Chiang, et al. Certification for gene-edited forests https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6455/767.2/tab-pdf and https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petition-in-support-of-modern-forest-biotechnology.html and https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/scientists-say-sustainable-forestry-organizations-should-lift-ban-biotech-trees.

“Forest certification bodies were established to provide consumers with confidence that they are purchasing sustainably sourced wood products… However, certification bodies have consistently excluded all genetically engineered or gene-edited (GE) trees from certification, including from field research on certified lands that is essential for understanding local benefits and impacts. We, leading forest biotechnology scientists from around the world, with the support of more than 1000 globally diverse signatories to a recent detailed petition, call for all forest certification systems to promptly examine and modify these policies.”

26 August: Kevin V. Pixley, Jose B. Falck-Zepeda, Ken E. Giller, et al. Genome Editing, Gene Drives, and Synthetic Biology: Will They Contribute to Disease-Resistant Crops, and Who Will Benefit? https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-phyto-080417-045954.

“Genetically engineered crops have been grown for more than 20 years, resulting in widespread albeit variable benefits for farmers and consumers. We review current, likely, and potential genetic engineering (GE) applications for the development of disease-resistant crop cultivars. Gene editing, gene drives, and synthetic biology offer novel opportunities to control viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens, parasitic weeds, and insect vectors of plant pathogens. We conclude that there will be no shortage of GE applications to tackle disease resistance and other farmer and consumer priorities for agricultur