The Innovative Genomics Institute is composed of diverse researchers with a powerful combined expertise. After the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 system for rewriting DNA, we saw the potential of applying this technology to solve some of humanity’s greatest problems. Our scientists conduct world-class research, driven by the real possibility to cure human disease, end hunger, and protect the environment.
In addition to our scientific efforts, the IGI is committed to advancing public understanding of genome engineering and providing resources for the broader community.
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 2016, 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.
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.
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.