Forging a path for CRISPR research
Blog Mar 07, 2016
There doesn’t seem to be a week go by where CRISPR isn’t hitting the headlines. Just last month, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Caribou Biosciences a patent on the key first step in CRISPR gene-editing: using nucleoprotein-guided systems to target DNA.
Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) has obtained a worldwide licence to commercialise CRISPR-Cas9 reagents under Caribou’s IP for research use.
But what does this mean for researchers? We speak with Roman Terrill, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at IDT, to learn more.
Q: Why did IDT pursue this licensing agreement, and what do you hope to do with it?
A: IDT is a world leading genomics company, and Caribou is a recognized leader in CRISPR-Cas9 research. This license agreement enables us to continue to develop and commercialize CRISPR-Cas9 reagents via our extensive in-house R&D arm. Our scientists are now free to continue innovating, allowing the company to play an important part in pushing CRISPR-Cas9 technology forward.
Q: What products does IDT offer for genomic editing?
A: We recently launched a unique method for using CRISPR-Cas9, taking inspiration from the natural 2-part RNA system, and making some calculated changes to improve it. This is our Alt-R™ CRISPR-Cas9 System. The single-guide RNAs used most commonly for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing have certain limitations. From the technical side of things, sgRNAs require the cloning or synthesis of a large expression construct, or synthesis through the use of difficult-to-QC in vitro transcription methods. From an experimental point of view, the long sgRNAs can also trigger interferon pathway activation and cell death. This type of immune response is a particular problem for researchers studying primary cell lines.
We sought to overcome these limitations with our Alt-R reagents, which take a different approach by keeping the two original CRISPR RNA components (crRNA and tracrRNA) separate. We have tuned these to be shorter, and therefore cheaper to synthesize, and contain chemical modifications that provide higher efficiency and reduced risk of immune activation compared with sgRNA-based methods. Furthermore, as our Alt-R tracrRNA component is a universal reagent, it can be synthesized and purchased in bulk, ready to use for a wide array of experiments.
Q: What is the next step for IDT?
A: IDT’s dedicated research scientists continue to work on developing improved CRISPR technologies. We have a roadmap that focuses on developing technologies around our core expertise in nucleic acid synthesis and you should expect to see the fruits of this labor in the coming months.
We’re also becoming more active at international conferences. For our fellow scientists across the pond, Mark Behlke, IDT’s Chief Scientific Officer, will be speaking at the Genome Editing & Gene Modulation conference in Oxford, UK. The event runs from 6th to 8th April, 2016, and will be an opportunity for them to find out more about the Alt-R system.
Additional information is also available on the IDT website (www.idtdna.com/CRISPR/).