Northern California Science Writers Association

How CRISPR gene editing is changing our world

  • Tuesday, July 07, 2015
  • 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse, Berkeley


  • For members and one guest only.
  • For non-members.
  • For student members only.

Biochemist Jennifer Doudna had, by 2005, made a name for herself in the low-profile field of RNA, respected for her structural and biochemical analysis of the protein-RNA complexes that play a major role in regulating expression of our genes. Then a colleague drew her attention to an obscure protein-RNA complex in bacteria, changing her life forever and, many say, revolutionizing genetic research.

Working with French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, Doudna discovered that, with the right pieces of RNA, the bacterial complex could be made into smart "DNA scissors," allowing the editing of genomes with such precision that gene therapy might finally become a reality. After the scientists published their findings in 2012, the technique, called CRISPR-Cas9, took off like a rocket. It has launched several biotech companies, underpinned some 2,000 research papers, and led to promising techniques for treating diseases such as cystic fibrosis and HIV and creating disease-resistant crops.

CRISPR-Cas9 has also scared scientists, who are afraid that some researchers will use the nascent technique to alter sperm or egg cells in humans and create heritable genetic changes with uncertain consequences. In April, Chinese researchers attempted to fix mutations for a heritable blood disease in dozens of non-viable human embryos with CRISPR-Cas9 and found it could not do so reliably.

Doudna will explain why microbes evolved CRISPR-Cas9 and how we can use a variant of the system for many sorts of genetic engineering. The co-author of a recent cautionary perspective in Science, she also will address the harm that could come from altering the genomes of future generations.

For more background, check out a recent profile of Doudna in the New York Times.

WHERE: Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse, 901 Gilman St, Berkeley

WHEN: Tuesday, July 7, 2015

6:00 pm – Enjoy Pyramid’s various brews during a no-host happy hour (sodas, coffee and tea are free)

7:00 pm - Dinner

8:00 pm - Speaker

MENU: Choice of 3 entrees from the Brewmaster Buffet

  • Spinach Ravioli with Garlic Cream Sauce (veg option)
  • Hefeweizen Pork Loin With Outburst Cranberry Compote
  • Apricot Ale Glazed Salmon

Mixed Green Salad, Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables, Roasted Red Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

Cost: $25 for members (each member may bring one guest at that price), $33 for nonmembers, $15 for students.

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