China, Gene Editing

Sputnik 2.0? Chinese research team first to try CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tech on a human

Call it a CRISPR-Cas9 gap.

A little more than two weeks ago Chinese investigators delivered genes edited with CRISPR-Cas9 tech into a lung cancer patient as part of a clinical trial, reports Nature. It was the first use of CRISPR-Cas9 in humans, beating out Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania by several months.

And June — who helped pioneer CAR-T tech in a showdown with rivals like Juno and Kite — sees a duel developing between East and West. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think this is going to trigger ‘Sputnik 2.0’, a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product,” June tells Nature.

CRISPR-Cas9, developed by a small team of scientists led by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who have both launched their own gene-editing companies, is credited with providing a simple, effective and inexpensive tool for cutting and editing DNA. Dozens of academic groups have been honing their expertise in animal studies.

Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu used the technology to edit a patient’s cells, Nature adds, disabling PD-1 in an effort to unblock an immune assault on cancer cells. And some investigators say that, considering the effect of PD-1 and PD-L1 checkpoints on the market, the strategy has real promise.

The Chinese team plan to treat up to 10 patients. Now we’ll see how the Yanks — and Europeans — react to the challenge.


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