Blogs and community news
- Startup incubator YCombinator publishes an enthusiastic essay on CRISPR, and gene drives. Worth reading to see how the field is viewed by entrepreneurial software engineers.
- Slate is running a whole series of articles on synthetic biology and its intersection with business, culture and ethics this month.
- Appropriately for this month, Make magazine features an article detailing how to cheaply obtain the equipment for a DIYbio lab.
Policy and Bioethics
- In an about-face, the FDA has approved 23andMe to supply users with information about their risks for various diseases. Previously, 23andMe was only allowed to provide information on diseases the users might be carriers for.
- Researchers are taking more seriously the idea that humans will need to be genetically modified in order to colonize Mars and the rest of the solar system.
- In the future, will some forms of gene editing be required? Intriguing article in The Atlantic draws comparisons between the prosecution of Christian Scientist parents for the avoidable deaths of their children, and a potential future in which parents are held accountable for not editing deadly diseases out of their children’s genomes.
Industry and Funding
- At their London conference, SynBioBeta founder John Cumbers announces a new synthetic biology venture fund in partnership with Data Collective. If you need money for your synbio startup, now there’s one more place to apply.
- The biohacking project to build a glowing plant has run out of money and had to stop. They’re still working on making a fragrant moss, however.
Books, Videos, Podcasts
- Drew Endy’s keynote at SynBioBeta London was something else. No one can accuse him of not dreaming big.
- The Naked Scientists (perhaps my favorite general science podcast) devote an episode to organs-on-chips. And if you don’t like listening, you can read the transcript.
- The SB7.0 conference is offering a Biosecurity Fellowship. Only a 1 page application, but it’s due on April 28th, so apply fast!
- Labs are trying to use CRISPR as an antibiotic, delivered via bacteriophage to chop up the pathogenic bacteria’s DNA. It’s an interesting idea, but I wonder: if you’ve found a phage to deliver CRISPR into target bacteria, why not just use the phage to kill the bacteria?
Now, on to the research papers! Fewer than most months; I’ll try to find more in May.
Detection and Genetic circuits
- Belkin et al. can find landmines from a distance with E. coli, in a field trial. Summary in The Guardian (though the paper is really short, so a summary is almost unnecessary).
- Gottenberg et al. reveal SHERLOCK, a CRISPR/C2c2-dependent strategy to detect minuscule concentrations of specific RNA and DNA sequences. Summary in MIT News.
- Birey et al. have used human stem cells to grow ‘human forebrain spheroids’ and study brain disease in them. Impressive work that strongly reminds me of last month’s bioethics paper on the implications of synthetic human entities with embryo-like features.
- Phage therapy FTW! Green et al. report that commonly isolated bacteriophages can kill multidrug-resistant pathogenic E. coli, and can alleviate infections in mice. Summary in GEN.
- Zhang et al. use CRISPR-Cpf1 to correct muscular dystrophy disease genes in human stem cells and mice.