The Ott Lab publishes novel research on SARS-CoV-2 variants Read More

Ott Lab News

Nobel Laureate Dr. Jennifer Doudna and Groundbreaking Applications of CRISPR

In 2011, Dr. Jennifer Doudna began studying an enzyme called Cas9. Little did she know, in 2020 she would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Emmanuelle Charpentier for discovering the powerful gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9. Today, Doudna is a decorated researcher, the Li Ka Shing Chancellors Chair, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Molecular as well as Cell Biology at the University of California Berkeley, and the founder of the Innovative Genomics Institute.

Why is Delta so infectious? New lab tool spotlights little noticed mutation that speeds viral spread

As the world has learned to its cost, the Delta variant of the pandemic coronavirus is more than twice as infectious as previous strains. Just what drives Delta’s ability to spread so rapidly hasn’t been clear, however. Now, a new lab strategy that makes it possible to quickly and safely study the effects of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 variants has delivered one answer: a little-noticed mutation in Delta that allows the virus to stuff more of its genetic code into host cells, thus boosting the chances that each infected cell will spread the virus to another cell.

New Method Sheds Light on Why Some SARS-CoV-2 Variants Are More Infectious

In a new paper published today in the journal Science, researchers at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at UC Berkeley and Gladstone Institutes used a new method to explore why some variants of SARS-CoV-2, like the Delta variant, are more transmissible and infectious than others.

The new study, a collaboration between the labs of Jennifer Doudna at the IGI and Melanie Ott at Gladstone Institutes, uses virus-like particles instead of live virus, a safer and faster way to explore the effect of different mutations in the virus’s genome. Initial explorations with this method found a surprising result: while most research has focused on mutations in the virus’s spike protein that allows the virus to penetrate human cells, mutations in a different protein, the nucleocapsid protein, appear to be more important for enhancing infectivity.

Dr. Melanie Ott featured in New York Times, SF Business Times articles

Dr. Ott made her New York Times debut in the article “Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months”, by Alan Burdick. You can read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/health/coronavirus-profile-covid.html.

Dr. Ott was also recently profiled by the San Francisco Business Times, and that article can be found here: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2020/05/29/inspire-awards-melanie-ott-leads-research-in-covid.html.