The IGI has given the Research for Innovation on Delivery of Editing Reagents (RIDER) Award to five UC researchers. The RIDER Award is a new program that funds development of innovative CRISPR delivery technologies.
The inaugural recipients are Britt Glaunsinger, Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley; Kevin Healy, Professor of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley; Niren Murthy, Professor of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley; Navneet Matharu, Assistant Professional Researcher in the School of Pharmacy at UC San Francisco; and Randy Schekman, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley.
The CRISPR toolkit continues to expand, but there are many challenges to delivering CRISPR components to cells. Cells have membranes that are a barrier for genome-editing components. Scientists need more ways to get editing tools into the right cells, and to make sure they are only getting into the right cells. Traditional delivery strategies use viruses because of their natural ability to get into cells. A downside is that these viruses sometimes also insert their own DNA into the cell’s genome. Another problem is that viruses can only carry “cargo” up to a certain size. This limits editing options.
Each project approaches the challenge of delivery from a different angle. Glausinger is engineering a non-inserting herpes-family virus that can carry massively larger cargo. Healy and Murthy are using 3D tissue culture models to test how well different editing molecules can penetrate solid tissue like muscle. Matharu is using a virus common in genome engineering, known as adeno-associated virus or AAV, to deliver its own receptor so it can get into cells more easily. Schekman’s focus is exosomes, a natural system that organisms use to shuttle material between cells. He aims to co-opt the system to deliver CRISPR components to specific cell types.
The RIDER Award will support each project with $150,000 for one year. RIDER Award recipients will collaborate with other IGI members, drawing on a community rich in expertise. Stay tuned for updates on these exciting projects!