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16 Minutes on the News #43: A Nobel for CRISPR! When, Who, How, What Now

Vijay Pande, Jorge Conde, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted October 10, 2020

“It’s CRISPR!” This week, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna (also an a16z co-founder, of Scribe Therapeutics), for the development of the CRISPR/Cas9 method for genome editing — a technology that’s “had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies, and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true”.

While many describe this technology as “genetic scissors”, one of the sharpest tools, is that analogy too limited for describing the true power and potential of CRISPR as a gene-editing platform? And while the time between (unexpected) discovery to practice to award has been less than a decade — further confirming that we’re in the new century of biology! — at what point does such discovery become engineering, that is, innovations we can use and systematize and scale (much like transistors)?

In this special episode of 16 Minutes, a16z general partners Vijay Pande and Jorge Conde, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, examine the long arc and narrative of CRISPR, both backwards and forward; tease apart what’s hype/ what’s real in terms of where we really are, in practice; and… celebrate the incredible milestone this is. It’s CRISPR!, and much more…

Articles cited in this episode

Pioneers of revolutionary CRISPR gene editing win chemistry Nobel“, Heidi Ledford & Ewen Callaway, Nature, 7 October 2020

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, NobelPrize.org, 7 October 2020