Harvard's George Church says the days of CRISPR might be numbered
In the article below, GMO promoter George Church admits CRISPR isn't precise and calls it a "blunt ax" and "genome vandalism". Quite. However, he promotes the idea that other techniques might be better. It seems likely that Church is deluded and that problems will emerge from those methods also.
4 Gene-editing technologies that could replace CRISPR
The Motley Fool, 18 Jan 2019
* The future of medicine involves the precise engineering of human cells. Turns out, that future may not include that promising CRISPR technique
At a recent medical conference, scientist and Harvard professor George Church presented an argument causing anxiety among healthcare investors: The days of CRISPR gene editing might be numbered. He called CRISPR a "blunt ax" and said, "it's called editing, I think it's really genome vandalism." Church made the case that the biotechnology industry might be better off moving beyond cutting genomes and toward more precise gene-editing techniques.
The words carry significant weight because Church was integral to the commercialization of CRISPR gene-editing tools. He's a co-founder of Editas Medicine (NASDAQ:EDIT), and he led work on other gene-editing and gene-writing technologies most people have never heard of. These criticisms raise the question: If other gene-editing tools are about to eat CRISPR's lunch, what does it mean for companies such as Editas Medicine, Crispr Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CRSP), and Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NTLA)?
Drawbacks of CRISPR technologies
CRISPR tools are often referred to as genetic scissors, owing to their potential to cut genomes at specified locations. It turns out, all of that cutting can also create problems.
While several gene-editing tools cut DNA in an attempt to remove faulty sequences, CRISPR relies on DNA repair mechanisms present inside cells to stitch the genome back together. When the repair mechanisms are defective, the cell loses an important check on its growth cycle and can fail to stop opportunistic cancer cells from proliferating. While it's inaccurate to say CRISPR causes cancer, the gene-editing tool has been shown to provide cancer an assist in certain cases.
In addition to the problem caused by cutting DNA without engineering a repair, it turns out that CRISPR isn't as specific in human cells as the media narrative suggests. The "blunt ax" can make edits to a genome far away from the target site, resulting in unintended alterations to the genome.
Will these gene-editing technologies replace CRISPR?
Church's comments reminded the audience that gene editing isn't magic, which can be easy to forget given the media hype surrounding CRISPR. His argument closely tracks a 2017 paper that laid out the seven characteristics harbored by an ideal gene-editing system. Therefore, it makes sense that the future of precise gene editing may be divided among multiple systems that each thrive in specific applications.
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 xeno-transplantation, which is the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species.
See illustration and read on here: