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.
How RNA technology may tip the balance in our favour when it comes to anti-COVID therapeutics as well as vaccines.
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.
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.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The battle against COVID-19 has thrown a lot of heroes from the Bay Area medical community into the spotlight. And increasingly, the faces we see informing us about the fight are women. For some of them, it’s been a lifelong journey through a world once dominated by men.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Bay Area researchers believe a new device has the potential to ramp up the fight against COVID-19. It’s designed to diagnose the virus in a fraction of the time, with the help of something you may have in your pocket.
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.
On May 7, 2020, Dr. Ott was announced the new Director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology! Along with the Institute of Virology, Gladstone will be launching the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology with Dr. Alexander Marson at the helm. A full article on these new developments can be found here: https://gladstone.org/news/two-new-research-institutes-bay-area.
Congratulations, Dr. Ott!