Menu

About Us

Advancing genome research for a better world

The Innovative Genomics Institute believes in the potential of genome engineering to solve some of humanity’s greatest problems.

The IGI is composed of diverse researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. Together, our scientists have powerful combined expertise. They conduct world-class research, driven by the real possibility to use genome engineering to treat human diseases and end hunger.

In addition to our scientific efforts, the IGI is committed to advancing public understanding of genome engineering, providing resources for the broader community, and guiding the ethical use of these technologies.

HOW WE OPERATE

IGI Vision

The IGI envisions a world in which genome-engineering innovations benefit humanity and are accessible to all.

IGI Mission

The IGI accelerates genome discovery and translation of resulting technologies in order to ethically and equitably improve human health and sustainable agriculture.

IGI Beliefs

  • Every IGI project has the potential for large-scale global impact over time.
  • Meeting our goals requires both leading-edge basic research and translation.
  • We work to create new paradigms for equitable and ethical applications.
  • Our work meets the highest standards for ethics and social responsibility.
  • Effective leadership, collaboration, and communication are critical for success.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to achieving our goals.

IGI Credo

We believe that science should serve the public good. Our work must realize the promise of genome engineering to advance human health and well-being. We will create genome-engineering solutions that meet an urgent need, serve a historically underserved community, or advance technology to meet these ends. We will create new paradigms for commercializing genome-engineering technologies that ensure broad, equitable access. We must always strive to maximize public benefit.

We are responsible to our members. We believe that good work and a good workplace support individual well-being, and that individual well-being is essential to doing our best work. Therefore, we must provide a workplace that is welcoming, inclusive, and honors the diversity of our community. There must be equal opportunity in hiring, development, and advancement for all who are qualified. We must provide highly skilled leaders. Members must feel that their work is meaningful, and good work must be recognized. Student members must receive high-quality training and mentorship. All have a voice; all are welcome to make suggestions and complaints. Compensation must be fair and sufficient. 

We are responsible to our communities. In addition to our research, we must contribute to the scientific community through education, sharing resources, and guiding the ethical use of genome engineering. In our local communities, we must strive to be good neighbors, providing learning opportunities and inviting the community into discussions of genome-engineering uses, ethics, and policy that inform our ongoing work.

AREAS OF RESEARCH

Our work is divided
into four programs

Sustainable
Agriculture

Human
Health

Public
Impact

Advancing Genome
Engineering

History

The IGI began in 2014 through the Li Ka Shing Center for Genetic Engineering, which was created thanks to a generous donation from the Li Ka Shing Foundation. The Innovative Genomics Initiative formed as a partnership between the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. Combining the fundamental research expertise and the biomedical talent at UCB and UCSF, the Innovative Genomics Initiative focused on unraveling the mechanisms underlying CRISPR-based genome editing and applying this technology to improve human health. Early achievements include improving the efficiency of gene replacement and foundational work toward a treatment for sickle cell disease.

In late 2015, generous philanthropic donations enabled a bolder vision and broader mission for the IGI. With this expansion came a significant enhancement of the organization, and in January 2017, the IGI officially re-launched as the Innovative Genomics Institute.

The Institute’s expanded research areas include personalized and tissue-selective delivery of human therapeutics, improved plant varieties for environmental and agricultural uses, and new microbe-inspired biotechnologies. To complement this work, the IGI puts special emphasis on education about the scientific and societal implications of genome engineering. These efforts encourage public engagement and help guide regulatory decision-making.

Our Partners

The Innovative Genomics Institute is a joint effort between two of the Bay Area’s leading scientific research institutions, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco.

UC Berkeley

The University of California was founded in Berkeley in 1868 and is now the #1 public university in the United States. Known for both its history of progressive student activism and high-level scholarship, UC Berkeley has continually made major contributions to society since its establishment. It is a top research university with over 2000 faculty members and 130 academic departments. Adding to its research repertoire, Cal also co-manages the nearby government-funded Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. Major discoveries at Berkeley range from vitamin E, plutonium, and dark matter to the flu vaccine and cancer immunotherapy.

UC Berkeley is home to the administrative hub of the Innovative Genomics Institute and hosts many of its member labs. The university has an impressive record of fundamental scientific discovery and its world-class laboratories are well-suited to advancing genomic research.

Visit UC Berkeley

UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco was established in 1873 and has since become a world-renowned medical school and research institution. In fact, UCSF is the nation's top public recipient of research funding by the NIH. For decades, scientists and physicians at the university have pioneered the translation of scientific discovery into real-world treatments. Further driving progress, UCSF has teamed up with the Gladstone Institutes, known for their phenomenal biomedical research. UCSF is the birthplace of recombinant human insulin and prenatal tests for sickle cell disease and thalassemia, as well as the discovery of prions and the first successful in utero fetal surgery.

As a partner of the Innovative Genomics Institute, UCSF contributes an invaluable ability to use science to help humanity. UCSF's continued excellence in basic research and precision medicine set the stage for unprecedented progress in applying genomic engineering to human health and beyond.

Visit UCSF

Technology

DNA is the instructional manual for life. It encodes the fundamental properties of an organism- how it develops, functions, and reproduces. In studying the human genome, we have found common sequence errors that cause disease, and the next logical step is to try to correct them. Changing a DNA sequence in a living cell is known as genome editing. For a long time, this was either impossible or extremely challenging.

A new technology called CRISPR-Cas9 has recently made this process much easier. CRISPR is an immune system used by bacteria to fend off viruses, and has been repurposed for making precise breaks in DNA. Scientists use the CRISPR-derived Cas9 protein like a molecular scalpel to slice a mutated DNA site in two. They add a piece of DNA containing the correct sequence and the cell uses it as a “patch” to repair the cut, replacing the mutation with a healthy sequence. This technology, co-developed by IGI executive director Jennifer Doudna at UC Berkeley in collaboration with Emmanuelle Charpentier at Umea University, holds great promise for treating genetic disease in humans and enabling plants to survive stress caused by pests and the environment.

Researchers at the Innovative Genomics Institute use the most advanced technologies available. CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful system, and other CRISPR proteins have also shown potential as genome editing tools. The IGI is improving existing methods and exploring other natural systems that may inspire future technologies.

Stance on Germline Editing

The Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) pioneers genome editing to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

The IGI does not support current use of this technology in human embryos or reproductive cells with the intention to establish a pregnancy or birth; the societal implications of altering the human genome in a manner that will be carried into future generations are not understood at this time and represent significant potential risk.

The IGI’s therapeutic efforts focus solely on somatic cell genome editing: making modifications to human cells that will treat that individual patient, without passing them to future generations. IGI scientists take this considered and ethical approach because we believe that somatic cell genome editing alone can be the foundation for a new category of clinically relevant treatments for a wide range of diseases.

Academic Research License

The Innovative Genomics Institute is a non-profit, academic research organization formed through the partnership of UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. The University of California has a retained right to practice its inventions for educational and research purposes. This reservation of rights is explicit in our commercial licenses, and the act of patenting and licensing does not prevent us from making improvements to external technologies. When collaborating directly with biotechnology companies, the involved parties come to an agreement on how to handle intellectual property claims that may result from the joint work. Questions or concerns may be sent to ipira (at) berkeley.edu.

Funders

We are grateful to the many generous philanthropists and groups whose funding makes our programs possible.

Li Ka Shing Foundation Logo - Innovative Genomics Initiative (IGI) Mars text John Templeton Foundation logo Biogemma logo Burroughs Wellcome Fund logo