August 31, 2016


VGMolecular Biology & Biotechnology Session

CRISPR gene drives join the fight against vector-borne diseases
University of California, San Diego, USA


My work as a graduate student resulted in the first peer-reviewed publication of a gene drive based on the CRISPR/Cas9 technology and a following publication describing the first proof-of-principle application in a relevant species – the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi. Gene drives offer a potential solution to numerous problems affecting human health (Malaria, Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, Chagas), agricultural pests (spotted wing fruit fly, olive fly, Mediterranean fruit fly) and environmental alteration due to invasive species.

The two publications that I contributed to provide the first real promise for a permanent solution to devastating diseases that affect humankind, such as Malaria. Gene drive elements such as the one that I first developed, represent a new class of genetic elements that use homology directed repair (HDR) to precisely copy themselves to companion chromosome. The type of inheritance obtained by this kind of genetic element bypasses the rules of Mendelian genetics that we all know. Together with my advisor Ethan Bier we have developed the concept of active genetics exploring the potential approaches that could be achieved using such active genetic elements.

Dr. Valentino Gantz is a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of San Diego who published a widely-cited paper in the journal Science last March, regarding the CRISPR technology. Being able to edit out errors in our genetic program using such an elegant and cheap technique is truly the future of both etiologic studies and genetic disease treatment, as it is already being demonstrated in several recently published works. Dr. Valentino Gantz won the first annual Biology Founding Faculty Award for Graduate Excellence.

Location: San Diego, USA

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