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Is Remdesivir the miracle cure or a short term cure for COVID-19?

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

 

Updated on 5/23/2020

 

New England Journal of Medicine

SOURCE

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2007764

Disclosures

The trial was sponsored and primarily funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the NIH, and funded in part by the NIAID and the National Cancer Institute, NIH. The trial has also been funded in part by the governments of Japan, Mexico, Denmark, and Singapore. The trial site in South Korea received funding from the Seoul National University Hospital. Support for the London International Coordinating Centre was also provided by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council.

Beigel disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Other co-authors disclosed support from NIH/NIAID/DMID, University of Minnesota, Medical Research Council U.K., Novo Nordisk Foundation, Simonsen Foundation, GSK, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Gliead, MSD, Lundbeck Foundation, Merck, Sanofi-Pasteur,Cepheid, Ellume, Genentech, Janssen, ViiV Healthcare, Integrum Scientific LLC, UCL, Bristol University, Gilead Sciences Europe, ECDC, EU Social funds and National resources.

One co-author is an employee of the U.S. government.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Although several therapeutic agents have been evaluated for the treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), none have yet been shown to be efficacious.

METHODS

We conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of intravenous remdesivir in adults hospitalized with Covid-19 with evidence of lower respiratory tract involvement. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either remdesivir (200 mg loading dose on day 1, followed by 100 mg daily for up to 9 additional days) or placebo for up to 10 days. The primary outcome was the time to recovery, defined by either discharge from the hospital or hospitalization for infection-control purposes only.

RESULTS

A total of 1063 patients underwent randomization. The data and safety monitoring board recommended early unblinding of the results on the basis of findings from an analysis that showed shortened time to recovery in the remdesivir group. Preliminary results from the 1059 patients (538 assigned to remdesivir and 521 to placebo) with data available after randomization indicated that those who received remdesivir had a median recovery time of 11 days (95% confidence interval [CI], 9 to 12), as compared with 15 days (95% CI, 13 to 19) in those who received placebo (rate ratio for recovery, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.12 to 1.55; P<0.001). The Kaplan-Meier estimates of mortality by 14 days were 7.1% with remdesivir and 11.9% with placebo (hazard ratio for death, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.47 to 1.04). Serious adverse events were reported for 114 of the 541 patients in the remdesivir group who underwent randomization (21.1%) and 141 of the 522 patients in the placebo group who underwent randomization (27.0%).

CONCLUSIONS

Remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery in adults hospitalized with Covid-19 and evidence of lower respiratory tract infection. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; ACCT-1 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT04280705. opens in new tab.)

References (14)

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Remdesivir Data from NIAID Trial Published

— “Not a panacea” or a “cure-all,” expert cautions

Peer-reviewed findings were published late Friday from one of the key trials of remdesivir, perhaps the most promising antiviral agent for COVID-19, confirming and extending topline results announced a month ago via press release.

Hospitalized patients with COVID-19 who received remdesivir had a median recovery time of 11 days versus 15 days with placebo (rate ratio for recovery 1.32, 95% CI 1.12-1.55, P<0.001), reported John Beigel, MD, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and colleagues.

Mortality estimates by 14 days were lower for the remdesivir group compared to placebo, but non-significant (HR for death 0.70, 95% CI 0.47-1.04), the authors wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Interestingly, when researchers examined outcomes on an 8-point ordinal scale, they found patients with a baseline ordinal score of 5 had a rate ratio for recovery of 1.47 (95% CI 1.17-1.84), while patients with a baseline score of 7 had a rate ratio for recovery of 0.95 (95% CI 0.64-1.42).

Some of these data were released by the NIAID on April 29, but without further details such as 95% confidence intervals. On May 1, the FDA agreed to let remdesivir be used clinically under an emergency use authorization. Since then, however, clinicians and other researchers have clamored for a fuller report, to help guide their clinical practice. For example, questions were raised as to whether particular subgroups got more benefit from the drug than others.

David Aronoff, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, who was not involved in the research, noted the drug seemed more effective when given to patients who weren’t as severely ill, earlier in the course of disease. He added this wasn’t surprising, given remdesivir’s mechanism of action as an antiviral, which works by blocking the virus from replicating.

“The drug doesn’t affect the host, it only affects the virus. What seems to cause major problems late in the course of disease is the inflammatory response to the initial damage the virus causes,” he told MedPage Today.

Aronoff likened the virus to an arsonist setting fires, and antivirals like remdesivir as the police trying to catch the arsonist before they set more fires.

“But once the building is on fire, it doesn’t matter where the arsonist is,” he noted.

This is why combining a drug to address the viral response with a drug to address the host response may be critical to treating the virus. Aronoff cited the NIAID’s ACTT-2 trial in progress, which will examine combination therapy with remdesivir and anti-inflammatory drug, baricitinib, versus remdesivir alone.

SOURCE

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/86670?xid=NL_breakingnewsalert_2020-05-23&eun=g99985d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=RemdesivirAlert_052320&utm_term=NL_Daily_Breaking_News_Active

 

Is Remdesivir the miracle cure or a short term cure for COVID-19?

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

 

In 1947, amid the “Golden Age” of antibiotic research that yielded many of the medicines used against bacteria such as chloramphenicol, a molecule that could combat a wide array of bacteria from different families. It was among the first FDA-approved broad-spectrum antibiotics used against typhus/meningitis. Now, chloramphenicol’s side effects make it a last-resort drug but it remains invaluable against a host of bacterial infections.
Viruses are more slippery targets than bacteria and they are a hundred times smaller and consist only of bare-bones cellular machinery. There are simply fewer targets at which to aim antivirals, especially for drugs that would shoot for the rare viral components that remain common across diverse types of viruses. Scientists call this virus-pinpointing model the “one drug, one bug” approach. An antiviral’s mechanism can’t be too generic, either.

Even with that, there is no common mechanism to target all viruses but instead researchers hope to expand the existing list of broad-spectrum antivirals and find more medicines that work on all viruses of a certain family. This reality makes the search for treatments for SARS-CoV-2 all the more challenging. Presently, no broad-spectrum antiviral is accepted for the treatment of all coronaviruses of which a new strain has driven the current pandemic.

With no specific antiviral drug for treatment of patients with severe COVID-19, scientists are rushing to find a solution. Yet, remdesivir’s journey from hypothesis to treatment is unparalleled. The drug was originally investigated by Gilead as a treatment for another lethal viral disease, Ebola. Remdesivir, a nucleoside analogue prodrug has inhibitory effects on pathogenic animal and human coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in vitro, and inhibits Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, and SARS-CoV-2 replication in animal models.

However, Gilead was unwilling to give up on its investment in the drug and remained hopeful that the drug might be useful in treating COVID-19. In collaboration with Chinese researchers, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the pharmaceutical company behind the drug, Gilead, all launched studies of remdesivir’s efficacy in treating COVID-19. Based on those encouraging results in May 1, the FDA issued an emergency-use authorization that permits doctors to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients with remdesivir. Japanese health officials issued a similar clearance days later.

On top of the biological challenge of finding new broad-spectrum antiviral drugs lies an economic one, partly because there is little financial incentive to develop broad-spectrum drugs against emerging diseases. And with all the government backed research, there is no guarantee that pharma companies have enough incentive to continue working on research. Yet, broad-spectrum antivirals are not miracle drugs, but they can be a helpful addition to a toolbox that is currently sparse.

Remdesivir’s potential first drew public attention in October 2015 during an Ebola outbreak in West Africa that claimed more than 11,000 lives. Remdesivir subdues a virus by interfering with replication. First, the body changes remdesivir into an imposter. It becomes what’s called a nucleoside analog, a genetic doppelganger that resembles adenosine. When the virus replicates, it weaves this analog into the new strand of genetic material. Nevertheless, the analog’s molecular makeup differs from real adenosine just enough to grind the copying process to a halt.

As COVID-19 swept the globe, scientists led an international trial of remdesivir as a treatment option. EIDD-2801, another treatment option has demonstrated broad-spectrum antiviral potential, as well as an ability to defend cells from SARS-CoV-2. Yet, the best treatment for COVID-19 can be remdesivir, EIDD-2801 or any single antiviral at all. Even with that, broad spectrum antivirals can be invaluable in the short-term.
The early success of remdesivir suggests that broad-spectrum antivirals will get their moment in the scientific limelight. After a pandemic pass, though, the rush interest about a multipurpose treatment diminishes.

SOURCE

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/remdesivir-works-against-many-viruses-why-arent-there-more-drugs-it-180974859/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily

https://www.gilead.com/news-and-press/press-room/press-releases/2020/4/gilead-announces-results-from-phase-3-trial-of-investigational-antiviral-remdesivir-in-patients-with-severe-covid-19

 

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Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 28, 2020 Session on Novel Targets and Therapies 2:35 PM

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

 

Session VMS.ET04.01 – Novel Targets and Therapies

Targeting chromatin remodeling-associated genetic vulnerabilities in cancer: PBRM1 defects are synthetic lethal with PARP and ATR inhibitors

Presenter/AuthorsRoman Merial Chabanon, Daphné Morel, Léo Colmet-Daage, Thomas Eychenne, Nicolas Dorvault, Ilirjana Bajrami, Marlène Garrido, Suzanna Hopkins, Cornelia Meisenberg, Andrew Lamb, Theo Roumeliotis, Samuel Jouny, Clémence Astier, Asha Konde, Geneviève Almouzni, Jyoti Choudhary, Jean-Charles Soria, Jessica Downs, Christopher J. Lord, Sophie Postel-Vinay. Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France, The Francis Crick Institute, London, United Kingdom, Institute of Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom, Sage Bionetworks, Seattle, WA, Institute of Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom, Institute of Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom, Institut Curie, Paris, France, Université Paris-Sud/Université Paris-Saclay, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France, Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus and U981 INSERM, ATIP-Avenir group, Villejuif, FranceDisclosures R.M. Chabanon: None. D. Morel: None. L. Colmet-Daage: None. T. Eychenne: None. N. Dorvault: None. I. Bajrami: None. M. Garrido: None. S. Hopkins: ; Fishawack Group of Companies. C. Meisenberg: None. A. Lamb: None. T. Roumeliotis: None. S. Jouny: None. C. Astier: None. A. Konde: None. G. Almouzni: None. J. Choudhary: None. J. Soria: ; Medimmune/AstraZeneca. ; Astex. ; Gritstone. ; Clovis. ; GSK. ; GamaMabs. ; Lilly. ; MSD. ; Mission Therapeutics. ; Merus. ; Pfizer. ; PharmaMar. ; Pierre Fabre. ; Roche/Genentech. ; Sanofi. ; Servier. ; Symphogen. ; Takeda. J. Downs: None. C.J. Lord: ; AstraZeneca. ; Merck KGaA. ; Artios. ; Tango. ; Sun Pharma. ; GLG. ; Vertex. ; Ono Pharma. ; Third Rock Ventures. S. Postel-Vinay: ; Merck KGaA. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy.; Boehringer Ingelheim. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy.; Roche. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy. Benefited from reimbursement for attending symposia.; AstraZeneca. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy.; Clovis. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy.; Bristol-Myers Squibb. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy.; Agios. ; Principal investigator of clinical trials for Gustave Roussy.; GSK.AbstractAim: Polybromo-1 (PBRM1), a specific subunit of the pBAF chromatin remodeling complex, is frequently inactivated in cancer. For example, 40% of clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC) and 15% of cholangiocarcinoma present deleterious PBRM1 mutations. There is currently no precision medicine-based therapeutic approach that targets PBRM1 defects. To identify novel, targeted therapeutic strategies for PBRM1-defective cancers, we carried out high-throughput functional genomics and drug screenings followed by in vitro and in vivo validation studies.
Methods: High-throughput siRNA-drug sensitization and drug sensitivity screens evaluating > 150 cancer-relevant small molecules in dose-response were performed in Pbrm1 siRNA-transfected mouse embryonic stem cells (mES) and isogenic PBRM1-KO or -WT HAP1 cells, respectively. After identification of PBRM1-selective small molecules, revalidation was carried out in a series of in-house-generated isogenic models of PBRM1 deficiency – including 786-O (ccRCC), A498 (ccRCC), U2OS (osteosarcoma) and H1299 (non-small cell lung cancer) human cancer cell lines – and non-isogenic ccRCC models, using multiple clinical compounds. Mechanistic dissection was performed using immunofluorescence, RT-qPCR, western blotting, DNA fiber assay, transcriptomics, proteomics and DRIP-sequencing to evaluate markers of DNA damage response (DDR), replication stress and cell-autonomous innate immune signaling. Preclinical data were integrated with TCGA tumor data.
Results: Parallel high-throughput drug screens independently identified PARP inhibitors (PARPi) as being synthetic lethal with PBRM1 defects – a cell type-independent effect which was exacerbated by ATR inhibitors (ATRi) and which we revalidated in vitro in isogenic and non-isogenic systems and in vivo in a xenograft model. PBRM1 defects were associated with increased replication fork stress (higher γH2AX and RPA foci levels, decreased replication fork speed and increased ATM checkpoint activation), R-loop accumulation and enhanced genomic instability in vitro; these effects were exacerbated upon PARPi exposure. In patient tumor samples, we also found that PBRM1-mutant cancers possessed a higher mutational load. Finally, we found that ATRi selectively activated the cGAS/STING cytosolic DNA sensing pathway in PBRM1-deficient cells, resulting in increased expression of type I interferon genes.
Conclusion: PBRM1-defective cancer cells present increased replication fork stress, R-loop formation, genome instability and are selectively sensitive to PARPi and ATRi through a synthetic lethal mechanism that is cell type-independent. Our data provide the pre-clinical rationale for assessing PARPi as a monotherapy or in combination with ATRi or immune-modulating agents in molecularly-selected patients with PBRM1-defective cancers.

1057 – Targeting MTHFD2 using first-in-class inhibitors kills haematological and solid cancer through thymineless-induced replication stress

Presenter/AuthorsThomas Helleday. University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United KingdomDisclosures T. Helleday: None.AbstractSummary
Thymidine synthesis pathways are upregulated pathways in cancer. Since the 1940s, targeting nucleotide and folate metabolism to induce thymineless death has remained first-line anti-cancer treatment. Recent discoveries that showing cancer cells have rewired networks and exploit unique enzymes for proliferation, have renewed interest in metabolic pathways. The cancer-specific expression of MTHFD2 has gained wide-spread attention and here we describe an emerging role for MTHFD2 in the DNA damage response (DDR). The folate metabolism enzyme MTHFD2 is one of the most consistently overexpressed metabolic enzymes in cancer and an emerging anticancer target. We show a novel role for MTHFD2 being essential for DNA replication and genomic stability in cancer cells. We describe first-in-class nanomolar MTHFD2 inhibitors (MTHFD2i), with protein co-crystal structures demonstrating binding in the active site of MTHFD2 and engaging with the target in cells and tumours. We show MTHFD2i reduce replication fork speed and induce replication stress, followed by S phase arrest, apoptosis and killing of a range of haematological and solid cancer cells in vitro and in vivo, with a therapeutic window spanning up to four orders of magnitude compared to non-transformed cells. Mechanistically, MTHFD2i prevent thymidine production leading to mis-incorporation of uracil into DNA and replication stress. As MTHFD2 expression is cancer specific there is a potential of MTHFD2i to synergize with other treatments. Here, we show MTHFD2i synergize with dUTPase inhibitors as well as other DDR inhibitors and demonstrate the mechanism of action. These results demonstrate a new link between MTHFD2-dependent cancer metabolism and replication stress that can be exploited therapeutically.
Keywords
MTHFD2, one-carbon metabolism, folate metabolism, DNA replication, replication stress, synthetic lethal, thymineless death, small-molecule inhibitor, DNA damage response

 

 

1060 – Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of Skp2, an E3 ubiquitin ligase and RB1-target, has antitumor activity in RB1-deficient human and mouse small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Presenter/Authors
Hongling ZhaoVineeth SukrithanNiloy IqbalCari NicholasYingjiao XueJoseph LockerJuntao ZouLiang ZhuEdward L. Schwartz. Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Disclosures
 H. Zhao: None. V. Sukrithan: None. N. Iqbal: None. C. Nicholas: None. Y. Xue: None. J. Locker: None. J. Zou: None. L. Zhu: None. E.L. Schwartz: None.
Abstract
The identification of driver mutations and their corresponding targeted drugs has led to significant improvements in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and other solid tumors; however, similar advances have not been made in the treatment of small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Due to their aggressive growth, frequent metastases, and resistance to chemotherapy, the five-year overall survival of SCLC is less than 5%. While SCLC tumors can be sensitive to first-line therapy of cisplatin and etoposide, most patients relapse, often in less than 3 months after initial therapy. Dozens of drugs have been tested clinically in SCLC, including more than 40 agents that have failed in phase III trials.
The near uniform bi-allelic inactivation of the tumor suppressor gene RB1 is a defining feature of SCLC. RB1 is mutated in highly aggressive tumors, including SCLC, where its functional loss, along with that of TP53, is both required and sufficient for tumorigenesis. While it is known that RB1 mutant cells fail to arrest at G1/S in response to checkpoint signals, this information has not led to effective strategies to treat RB1-deficient tumors, and it has been challenging to develop targeted drugs for tumors that are driven by the loss of gene function.
Our group previously identified Skp2, a substrate recruiting subunit of the SCF-Skp2 E3 ubiquitin ligase, as an early repression target of pRb whose knockout blocked tumorigenesis in Rb1-deficient prostate and pituitary tumors. Here we used genetic mouse models to demonstrate that deletion of Skp2 completely blocked the formation of SCLC in Rb1/p53-knockout mice (RP mice). Skp2 KO caused an increased accumulation of the Skp2-degradation target p27, a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, and we confirmed this was the mechanism of protection in the RP-Skp2 KO mice by using the knock-in of a mutant p27 that was unable to bind to Skp2. Building on the observed synthetic lethality between Rb1 and Skp2, we found that small molecules that bind to and/or inhibit Skp2 induced apoptosis and inhibited SCLC cell growth. In a panel of SCLC cell lines, growth inhibition by a Skp2 inhibitor was not correlated with sensitivity/resistance to etoposide. Targeting Skp2 also had in vivo antitumor activity in mouse tumors and human patient-derived xenograft models of SCLC. Using the genetic and pharmacologic approaches, antitumor activity was seen in vivo in established SCLC primary lung tumors, in liver metastases, and in chemotherapy-resistant tumors. The identification and validation of an actionable target downstream of RB1 could have a broad impact on treatment of SCLC and other advanced tumors with mutant RB1, for which there are currently no targeted therapies available.

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Tumor Organoids Used to Speed Cancer Treatment

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Collecting cancer cells from patients and growing them into 3-D mini tumors could make it possible to quickly screen large numbers of potential drugs for ultra-rare cancers. Preliminary success with a new high-speed, high-volume approach is already guiding treatment decisions for some patients with recurring hard-to-treat cancers.

A London-based team labelled how a “tumor-in-a-dish” approach positively forecasted drug responses in cancer patients who previously took part in clinical trials. That study was a major development in a new research area focused on “organoids” — tiny 3-D versions of the brain, gut, lung and other organs grown in the lab to probe basic biology or test drugs.

UCLA cancer biologist Alice Soragni and her colleagues developed a high-volume, automated method to rapidly study drug responses in tumor organoids grown from patient cells. By studying mini tumors grown on a plate with 96 tiny test tubes, her team can screen hundreds of compounds at once and classify promising candidates within a time frame that is therapeutically actionable. According to Dr. Soragni, the method seemed to work for various kinds of ovarian cancer. It was shown that the lab-grown organoids mimicked how tumors in the body look and behave. And even in cases when mini tumors had a hard time growing in a dish, scientists still acknowledged potential drug candidates.
Up to now, the UCLA team has produced organoids from 35 to 40 people with various types of sarcoma which will allow them to classify tumors that won’t respond to conventional therapy. This proves useful for people with recurrent metastases, where it’s not clear if we’re doing anything for their overall survival or giving them more toxicity.

Source

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/tumor-organoids-may-speed-cancer-treatment

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Targeting Cardio-Metabolic Diseases and Metabolomics in Drug Discovery – CHI’s 14th Annual Discovery On Target September 19-22, 2016 | Westin Boston Waterfront — Boston, MA

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

14th Annual Discovery On Target
September 19-22, 2016 | Westin Boston Waterfront — Boston, MA

2016 Prospectus Download | Current Sponsors | Current Exhibitors & Floorplan

Sponsorship Opportunities | 2015 Attendee List

Hello Aviva,

I wanted to inform you of the opportunity to meet with thought leaders at the 14th Annual Discovery On Target event, taking place September 19-22, 2016 in Boston attending the Targeting Cardio-Metabolic Diseases and Metabolomics in Drug Discovery conference programs. As a sponsor and/or exhibitor of this meeting, you have the opportunity to speak and network with 1,100+ attendees from 20+ countries composed of scientists, executives, directors, and managers from large biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Delivering a sponsored presentation during the conference program is the most effective way to access even the hardest-to-reach decision makers from within your target market. This will increase your scientific presence and drive more qualified leads to your booth space, maximizing your ROI.

Please see the session topics, below:

This conference focuses on new cardiometabolic drug targets, mostly PCSK9 and the connections between cardiometabolic disease and liver metabolism, especially as manifested in a disease of the fatty liver, NASH (Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis). 

Topics include:

  • New Cardiometabolic Drug Targets and PCSK9
  • NASH: Non-Alcohlic Steatohepatitis and Cardiometabolism

This conference will emphasize presentations that analyze metabolomics data in a larger context of cellular functioning or disease states. A few introductory type presentations will highlight the current state of the field and its major technologies.

Topics include:

  • Metabolomics Overview and Technologies
  • Disease-Focused Research Stemming from the Metabolomic Analysis
  • Cancer Metabolism

Opportunities are available for sponsored presentations during the conference agenda, One-on-One Meetings, and exhibit opportunities. Act now, as priority placement is given to companies who sign on early. We can customize a sponsorship package to meet your company’s needs and reach your target audience. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you!

Kind regards,

Jon Stroup

Senior Manager, Business Development
T: 781.972.5483
F: 781.972.5452
E: jstroup@cambridgeinnovationinstitute.com
W: DiscoveryOnTarget.com

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SPONSORSHIP & EXHIBIT INFORMATION

2016 Prospectus Now Available!

PREMIER SPONSOR

SOURCE

From: Jon Stroup <sales2@healthtech.com>

Date: Monday, June 13, 2016 at 2:40 PM

To: Aviva Lev-Ari <AvivaLev-Ari@alum.berkeley.edu>

Subject: Targeting Cardio-Metabolic Diseases & Metabolomics in Drug Discovery

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Electronic Proceedings for 10th US-India BioPharma & Healthcare Summit, June 2, 2016, Marriott Cambridge, MA

 

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

LIVE — 9AM-noon US-India BioPharma & Healthcare Summit, June 2, 2016, Marriott Cambridge, MA

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/06/02/live-9am-noon-us-india-biopharma-healthcare-summit-june-2-2016-marriott-cambridge-ma/

 

LIVE 11:45AM – 2:40PM US-India BioPharma & Healthcare Summit, June 2, 2016, Marriott Cambridge, MA

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/06/02/1145am-240pm-us-india-biopharma-healthcare-summit-june-2-2016-marriott-cambridge-ma/

 

LIVE 3:15PM – 5:00PM US-India BioPharma & Healthcare Summit, June 2, 2016, Marriott Cambridge, MA

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/06/02/315pm-500pm-us-india-biopharma-healthcare-summit-june-2-2016-marriott-cambridge-ma/

 

 

 

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Gene Editing with CRISPR gets Crisper

Curators: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

 

CRISPR Moves from Butchery to Surgery   

More Genomes Are Going Under the CRISPR Knife, So Surgical Standards Are Rising

http://www.genengnews.com/gen-articles/crispr-moves-from-butchery-to-surgery/5759/

  • The Dharmacon subsidary of GE Healthcare provides the Edit-R Lentiviral Gene Engineering platform. It is based on the natural S. pyrogenes system, but unlike that system, which uses a single guide RNA (sgRNA), the platform uses two component RNAs, a gene-specific CRISPR RNA (crRNA) and a universal trans-activating crRNA (tracrRNA). Once hybridized to the universal tracrRNA (blue), the crRNA (green) directs the Cas9 nuclease to a specific genomic region to induce a double- strand break.

    Scientists recently convened at the CRISPR Precision Gene Editing Congress, held in Boston, to discuss the new technology. As with any new technique, scientists have discovered that CRISPR comes with its own set of challenges, and the Congress focused its discussion around improving specificity, efficiency, and delivery.

    In the naturally occurring system, CRISPR-Cas9 works like a self-vaccination in the bacterial immune system by targeting and cleaving viral DNA sequences stored from previous encounters with invading phages. The endogenous system uses two RNA elements, CRISPR RNA (crRNA) and trans-activating RNA (tracrRNA), which come together and guide the Cas9 nuclease to the target DNA.

    Early publications that demonstrated CRISPR gene editing in mammalian cells combined the crRNA and tracrRNA sequences to form one long transcript called asingle-guide RNA (sgRNA). However, an alternative approach is being explored by scientists at the Dharmacon subsidiary of GE Healthcare. These scientists have a system that mimics the endogenous system through a synthetic two-component approach thatpreserves individual crRNA and tracrRNA. The tracrRNA is universal to any gene target or species; the crRNA contains the information needed to target the gene of interest.

    Predesigned Guide RNAs

    In contrast to sgRNAs, which are generated through either in vitro transcription of a DNA template or a plasmid-based expression system, synthetic crRNA and tracrRNA eliminate the need for additional cloning and purification steps. The efficacy of guide RNA (gRNA), whether delivered as a sgRNA or individual crRNA and tracrRNA, depends not only on DNA binding, but also on the generation of an indel that will deliver the coup de grâce to gene function.

    “Almost all of the gRNAs were able to create a break in genomic DNA,” said Louise Baskin, senior product manager at Dharmacon. “But there was a very wide range in efficiency and in creating functional protein knock-outs.”

    To remove the guesswork from gRNA design, Dharmacon developed an algorithm to predict gene knockout efficiency using wet-lab data. They also incorporated specificity as a component of their algorithm, using a much more comprehensive alignment tool to predict potential off-target effects caused by mismatches and bulges often missed by other alignment tools. Customers can enter their target gene to access predesigned gRNAs as either two-component RNAs or lentiviral sgRNA vectors for multiple applications.

    “We put time and effort into our algorithm to ensure that our guide RNAs are not only functional but also highly specific,” asserts Baskin. “As a result, customers don’t have to do any design work.”

    Donor DNA Formats

    http://www.genengnews.com/Media/images/Article/thumb_MilliporeSigma_CRISPR3120824917.jpg
    MilliporeSigma’s CRISPR Epigenetic Activator is based on fusion of a nuclease-deficient Cas9 (dCas9) to the catalytic histone acetyltransferase (HAT) core domain of the human E1A-associated protein p300. This technology allows researchers to target specific DNA regions or gene sequences. Researchers can localize epigenetic changes to their target of interest and see the effects of those changes in gene expression.

    Knockout experiments are a powerful tool for analyzing gene function. However, for researchers who want to introduce DNA into the genome, guide design, donor DNA selection, and Cas9 activity are paramount to successful DNA integration.MilliporeSigma offers two formats for donor DNA: double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) plasmids and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) oligonucleotides. The most appropriate format depends on cell type and length of the donor DNA. “There are some cell types that have immune responses to dsDNA,” said Gregory Davis, Ph.D., R&D manager, MilliporeSigma.

  • The ssDNA format can save researchers time and money, but it has a limited carrying capacity of approximately 120 base pairs.In addition to selecting an appropriate donor DNA format, controlling where, how, and when the Cas9 enzyme cuts can affect gene-editing efficiency. Scientists are playing tug-of-war, trying to pull cells toward the preferred homology-directed repair (HDR) and away from the less favored nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) repair mechanism.One method to achieve this modifies the Cas9 enzyme to generate a nickase that cuts only one DNA strand instead of creating a double-strand break. Accordingly, MilliporeSigma has created a Cas9 paired-nickase system that promotes HDR, while also limiting off-target effects and increasing the number of sequences available for site-dependent gene modifications, such as disease-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).“The best thing you can do is to cut as close to the SNP as possible,” advised Dr. Davis. “As you move the double-stranded break away from the site of mutation you get an exponential drop in the frequency of recombination.”

 

  • Ribonucleo-protein Complexes

    Another strategy to improve gene-editing efficiency, developed by Thermo Fisher, involves combining purified Cas9 protein with gRNA to generate a stable ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex. In contrast to plasmid- or mRNA-based formats, which require transcription and/or translation, the Cas9 RNP complex cuts DNA immediately after entering the cell. Rapid clearance of the complex from the cell helps to minimize off-target effects, and, unlike a viral vector, the transient complex does not introduce foreign DNA sequences into the genome.

    To deliver their Cas9 RNP complex to cells, Thermo Fisher has developed a lipofectamine transfection reagent called CRISPRMAX. “We went back to the drawing board with our delivery, screened a bunch of components, and got a brand-new, fully  optimized lipid nanoparticle formulation,” explained Jon Chesnut, Ph.D., the company’s senior director of synthetic biology R&D. “The formulation is specifically designed for delivering the RNP to cells more efficiently.”

    Besides the reagent and the formulation, Thermo Fisher has also developed a range of gene-editing tools. For example, it has introduced the Neon® transfection system for delivering DNA, RNA, or protein into cells via electroporation. Dr. Chesnut emphasized the company’s focus on simplifying complex workflows by optimizing protocols and pairing everything with the appropriate up- and downstream reagents.

From Mammalian Cells to Microbes

One of the first sources of CRISPR technology was the Feng Zhang laboratory at the Broad Institute, which counted among its first licensees a company called GenScript. This company offers a gene-editing service called GenCRISPR™ to establish mammalian cell lines with CRISPR-derived gene knockouts.

“There are a lot of challenges with mammalian cells, and each cell line has its own set of issues,” said Laura Geuss, a marketing specialist at GenScript. “We try to offer a variety of packages that can help customers who have difficult-to-work-with cells.” These packages include both viral-based and transient transfection techniques.

However, the most distinctive service offered by GenScript is its microbial genome-editing service for bacteria (Escherichia coli) and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The company’s strategy for gene editing in bacteria can enable seamless knockins, knockouts, or gene replacements by combining CRISPR with lambda red recombineering. Traditionally one of the most effective methods for gene editing in microbes, recombineering allows editing without restriction enzymes through in vivo homologous recombination mediated by a phage-based recombination system such as lambda red.

On its own, lambda red technology cannot target multiple genes, but when paired with CRISPR, it allows the editing of multiple genes with greater efficiency than is possible with CRISPR alone, as the lambda red proteins help repair double-strand breaks in E. coli. The ability to knockout different gene combinations makes Genscript’s microbial editing service particularly well suited for the optimization of metabolic pathways.

Pooled and Arrayed Library Strategies

Scientists are using CRISPR technology for applications such as metabolic engineering and drug development. Yet another application area benefitting from CRISPR technology is cancer research. Here, the use of pooled CRISPR libraries is becoming commonplace. Pooled CRISPR libraries can help detect mutations that affect drug resistance, and they can aid in patient stratification and clinical trial design.

Pooled screening uses proliferation or viability as a phenotype to assess how genetic alterations, resulting from the application of a pooled CRISPR library, affect cell growth and death in the presence of a therapeutic compound. The enrichment or depletion of different gRNA populations is quantified using deep sequencing to identify the genomic edits that result in changes to cell viability.

MilliporeSigma provides pooled CRISPR libraries ranging from the whole human genome to smaller custom pools for these gene-function experiments. For pharmaceutical and biotech companies, Horizon Discovery offers a pooled screening service, ResponderSCREEN, which provides a whole-genome pooled screen to identify genes that confer sensitivity or resistance to a compound. This service is comprehensive, taking clients from experimental design all the way through to suggestions for follow-up studies.

Horizon Discovery maintains a Research Biotech business unit that is focused on target discovery and enabling translational medicine in oncology. “Our internal backbone gives us the ability to provide expert advice demonstrated by results,” said Jon Moore, Ph.D., the company’s CSO.

In contrast to a pooled screen, where thousands of gRNA are combined in one tube, an arrayed screen applies one gRNA per well, removing the need for deep sequencing and broadening the options for different endpoint assays. To establish and distribute a whole-genome arrayed lentiviral CRISPR library, MilliporeSigma partnered with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “This is the first and only arrayed CRISPR library in the world,” declared Shawn Shafer, Ph.D., functional genomics market segment manager, MilliporeSigma. “We were really proud to partner with Sanger on this.”

Pooled and arrayed screens are powerful tools for studying gene function. The appropriate platform for an experiment, however, will be determined by the desired endpoint assay.

Detection and Quantification of Edits

 

The QX200 Droplet Digital PCR System from Bio-Rad Laboratories can provide researchers with an absolute measure of target DNA molecules for EvaGreen or probe-based digital PCR applications. The system, which can provide rapid, low-cost, ultra-sensitive quantification of both NHEJ- and HDR-editing events, consists of two instruments, the QX200 Droplet Generator and the QX200 Droplet Reader, and their associated consumables.

Finally, one last challenge for CRISPR lies in the detection and quantification of changes made to the genome post-editing. Conventional methods for detecting these alterations include gel methods and next-generation sequencing. While gel methods lack sensitivity and scalability, next-generation sequencing is costly and requires intensive bioinformatics.

To address this gap, Bio-Rad Laboratories developed a set of assay strategies to enable sensitive and precise edit detection with its Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) technology. The platform is designed to enable absolute quantification of nucleic acids with high sensitivity, high precision, and short turnaround time through massive droplet partitioning of samples.

Using a validated assay, a typical ddPCR experiment takes about five to six hours to complete. The ddPCR platform enables detection of rare mutations, and publications have reported detection of precise edits at a frequency of <0.05%, and of NHEJ-derived indels at a frequency as low as 0.1%. In addition to quantifying precise edits, indels, and computationally predicted off-target mutations, ddPCR can also be used to characterize the consequences of edits at the RNA level.

According to a recently published Science paper, the laboratory of Charles A. Gersbach, Ph.D., at Duke University used ddPCR in a study of muscle function in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Specifically, ddPCR was used to assess the efficiency of CRISPR-Cas9 in removing the mutated exon 23 from the dystrophin gene. (Exon 23 deletion by CRISPR-Cas9 resulted in expression of the modified dystrophin gene and significant enhancement of muscle force.)

Quantitative ddPCR showed that exon 23 was deleted in ~2% of all alleles from the whole-muscle lysate. Further ddPCR studies found that 59% of mRNA transcripts reflected the deletion.

“There’s an overarching idea that the genome-editing field is moving extremely quickly, and for good reason,” asserted Jennifer Berman, Ph.D., staff scientist, Bio-Rad Laboratories. “There’s a lot of exciting work to be done, but detection and quantification of edits can be a bottleneck for researchers.”

The gene-editing field is moving quickly, and new innovations are finding their way into the laboratory as researchers lay the foundation for precise, well-controlled gene editing with CRISPR.

 

Are Current Cancer Drug Discovery Methods Flawed?

GEN May 3, 2016   http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/are-current-cancer-drug-discovery-methods-flawed/81252682/

 

Researchers utilized a systems biology approach to develop new methods to assess drug sensitivity in cells. [The Institute for Systems Biology]

Understanding how cells respond and proliferate in the presence of anticancer compounds has been the foundation of drug discovery ideology for decades. Now, a new study from scientists at Vanderbilt University casts significant suspicion on the primary method used to test compounds for anticancer activity in cells—instilling doubt on methods employed by the entire scientific enterprise and pharmaceutical industry to discover new cancer drugs.

“More than 90% of candidate cancer drugs fail in late-stage clinical trials, costing hundreds of millions of dollars,” explained co-senior author Vito Quaranta, M.D., director of the Quantitative Systems Biology Center at Vanderbilt. “The flawed in vitro drug discovery metric may not be the only responsible factor, but it may be worth pursuing an estimate of its impact.”

The Vanderbilt investigators have developed what they believe to be a new metric for evaluating a compound’s effect on cell proliferation—called the DIP (drug-induced proliferation) rate—that overcomes the flawed bias in the traditional method.

The findings from this study were published recently in Nature Methods in an article entitled “An Unbiased Metric of Antiproliferative Drug Effect In Vitro.”

For more than three decades, researchers have evaluated the ability of a compound to kill cells by adding the compound in vitro and counting how many cells are alive after 72 hours. Yet, proliferation assays that measure cell number at a single time point don’t take into account the bias introduced by exponential cell proliferation, even in the presence of the drug.

“Cells are not uniform, they all proliferate exponentially, but at different rates,” Dr. Quaranta noted. “At 72 hours, some cells will have doubled three times and others will not have doubled at all.”

Dr. Quaranta added that drugs don’t all behave the same way on every cell line—for example, a drug might have an immediate effect on one cell line and a delayed effect on another.

The research team decided to take a systems biology approach, a mixture of experimentation and mathematical modeling, to demonstrate the time-dependent bias in static proliferation assays and to develop the time-independent DIP rate metric.

“Systems biology is what really makes the difference here,” Dr. Quaranta remarked. “It’s about understanding cells—and life—as dynamic systems.”This new study is of particular importance in light of recent international efforts to generate data sets that include the responses of thousands of cell lines to hundreds of compounds. Using the

  • Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE) and
  • Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer (GDSC) databases

will allow drug discovery scientists to include drug response data along with genomic and proteomic data that detail each cell line’s molecular makeup.

“The idea is to look for statistical correlations—these particular cell lines with this particular makeup are sensitive to these types of compounds—to use these large databases as discovery tools for new therapeutic targets in cancer,” Dr. Quaranta stated. “If the metric by which you’ve evaluated the drug sensitivity of the cells is wrong, your statistical correlations are basically no good.”

The Vanderbilt team evaluated the responses from four different melanoma cell lines to the drug vemurafenib, currently used to treat melanoma, with the standard metric—used for the CCLE and GDSC databases—and with the DIP rate. In one cell line, they found a glaring disagreement between the two metrics.

“The static metric says that the cell line is very sensitive to vemurafenib. However, our analysis shows this is not the case,” said co-lead study author Leonard Harris, Ph.D., a systems biology postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt. “A brief period of drug sensitivity, quickly followed by rebound, fools the static metric, but not the DIP rate.”

Dr. Quaranta added that the findings “suggest we should expect melanoma tumors treated with this drug to come back, and that’s what has happened, puzzling investigators. DIP rate analyses may help solve this conundrum, leading to better treatment strategies.”

The researchers noted that using the DIP rate is possible because of advances in automation, robotics, microscopy, and image processing. Moreover, the DIP rate metric offers another advantage—it can reveal which drugs are truly cytotoxic (cell killing), rather than merely cytostatic (cell growth inhibiting). Although cytostatic drugs may initially have promising therapeutic effects, they may leave tumor cells alive that then have the potential to cause the cancer to recur.

The Vanderbilt team is currently in the process of identifying commercial entities that can further refine the software and make it widely available to the research community to inform drug discovery.

 

An unbiased metric of antiproliferative drug effect in vitro

Leonard A HarrisPeter L FrickShawn P GarbettKeisha N HardemanB Bishal PaudelCarlos F LopezVito Quaranta & Darren R Tyson
Nature Methods 2 May (2016)
                 doi:10.1038/nmeth.3852

In vitro cell proliferation assays are widely used in pharmacology, molecular biology, and drug discovery. Using theoretical modeling and experimentation, we show that current metrics of antiproliferative small molecule effect suffer from time-dependent bias, leading to inaccurate assessments of parameters such as drug potency and efficacy. We propose the drug-induced proliferation (DIP) rate, the slope of the line on a plot of cell population doublings versus time, as an alternative, time-independent metric.

  1. Zuber, J. et al. Nat. Biotechnol. 29, 7983 (2011).
  2. Berns, K. et al. Nature 428, 431437 (2004).
  3. Bonnans, C., Chou, J. & Werb, Z. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 15, 786801 (2014).
  4. Garnett, M.J. et al. Nature 483, 570575 (2012)

 

Mapping Traits to Genes with CRISPR

Researchers develop a technique to direct chromosome recombination with CRISPR/Cas9, allowing high-resolution genetic mapping of phenotypic traits in yeast.

By Catherine Offord | May 5, 2016

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/46029/title/Mapping-Traits-to-Genes-with-CRISPR

 

Researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 to make a targeted double-strand break (DSB) in one arm of a yeast chromosome labeled with a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene. A within-cell mechanism called homologous repair (HR) mends the broken arm using its homolog, resulting in a recombined region from the site of the break to the chromosome tip. When this cell divides by mitosis, each daughter cell will contain a homozygous section in an outcome known as “loss of heterozygosity” (LOH). One of the daughter cells is detectable because, due to complete loss of the GFP gene, it will no longer be fluorescent.REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM M.J. SADHU ET AL., SCIENCE

When mapping phenotypic traits to specific loci, scientists typically rely on the natural recombination of chromosomes during meiotic cell division in order to infer the positions of responsible genes. But recombination events vary with species and chromosome region, giving researchers little control over which areas of the genome are shuffled. Now, a team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has found a way around these problems by using CRISPR/Cas9 to direct targeted recombination events during mitotic cell division in yeast. The team described its technique today (May 5) in Science.

“Current methods rely on events that happen naturally during meiosis,” explained study coauthor Leonid Kruglyak of UCLA. “Whatever rate those events occur at, you’re kind of stuck with. Our idea was that using CRISPR, we can generate those events at will, exactly where we want them, in large numbers, and in a way that’s easy for us to pull out the cells in which they happened.”

Generally, researchers use coinheritance of a trait of interest with specific genetic markers—whose positions are known—to figure out what part of the genome is responsible for a given phenotype. But the procedure often requires impractically large numbers of progeny or generations to observe the few cases in which coinheritance happens to be disrupted informatively. What’s more, the resolution of mapping is limited by the length of the smallest sequence shuffled by recombination—and that sequence could include several genes or gene variants.

“Once you get down to that minimal region, you’re done,” said Kruglyak. “You need to switch to other methods to test every gene and every variant in that region, and that can be anywhere from challenging to impossible.”

But programmable, DNA-cutting champion CRISPR/Cas9 offered an alternative. During mitotic—rather than meiotic—cell division, rare, double-strand breaks in one arm of a chromosome preparing to split are sometimes repaired by a mechanism called homologous recombination. This mechanism uses the other chromosome in the homologous pair to replace the sequence from the break down to the end of the broken arm. Normally, such mitotic recombination happens so rarely as to be impractical for mapping purposes. With CRISPR/Cas9, however, the researchers found that they could direct double-strand breaks to any locus along a chromosome of interest (provided it was heterozygous—to ensure that only one of the chromosomes would be cut), thus controlling the sites of recombination.

Combining this technique with a signal of recombination success, such as a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene at the tip of one chromosome in the pair, allowed the researchers to pick out cells in which recombination had occurred: if the technique failed, both daughter cells produced by mitotic division would be heterozygous, with one copy of the signal gene each. But if it succeeded, one cell would end up with two copies, and the other cell with none—an outcome called loss of heterozygosity.

“If we get loss of heterozygosity . . . half the cells derived after that loss of heterozygosity event won’t have GFP anymore,” study coauthor Meru Sadhu of UCLA explained. “We search for these cells that don’t have GFP out of the general population of cells.” If these non-fluorescent cells with loss of heterozygosity have the same phenotype as the parent for a trait of interest, then CRISPR/Cas9-targeted recombination missed the responsible gene. If the phenotype is affected, however, then the trait must be linked to a locus in the recombined, now-homozygous region, somewhere between the cut site and the GFP gene.

By systematically making cuts using CRISPR/Cas9 along chromosomes in a hybrid, diploid strain ofSaccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, picking out non-fluorescent cells, and then observing the phenotype, the UCLA team demonstrated that it could rapidly identify the phenotypic contribution of specific gene variants. “We can simply walk along the chromosome and at every [variant] position we can ask, does it matter for the trait we’re studying?” explained Kruglyak.

For example, the team showed that manganese sensitivity—a well-defined phenotypic trait in lab yeast—could be pinpointed using this method to a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in a gene encoding the Pmr1 protein (a manganese transporter).

Jason Moffat, a molecular geneticist at the University of Toronto who was not involved in the work, toldThe Scientist that researchers had “dreamed about” exploiting these sorts of mechanisms for mapping purposes, but without CRISPR, such techniques were previously out of reach. Until now, “it hasn’t been so easy to actually make double-stranded breaks on one copy of a pair of chromosomes, and then follow loss of heterozygosity in mitosis,” he said, adding that he hopes to see the approach translated into human cell lines.

Applying the technique beyond yeast will be important, agreed cell and developmental biologist Ethan Bier of the University of California, San Diego, because chromosomal repair varies among organisms. “In yeast, they absolutely demonstrate the power of [this method],” he said. “We’ll just have to see how the technology develops in other systems that are going to be far less suited to the technology than yeast. . . . I would like to see it implemented in another system to show that they can get the same oomph out of it in, say, mammalian somatic cells.”

Kruglyak told The Scientist that work in higher organisms, though planned, is still in early stages; currently, his team is working to apply the technique to map loci responsible for trait differences between—rather than within—yeast species.

“We have a much poorer understanding of the differences across species,” Sadhu explained. “Except for a few specific examples, we’re pretty much in the dark there.”

M.J. Sadhu, “CRISPR-directed mitotic recombination enables genetic mapping without crosses,” Science, doi:10.1126/science.aaf5124, 2016.

 

CRISPR-directed mitotic recombination enables genetic mapping without crosses

Meru J Sadhu, Joshua S Bloom, Laura Day, Leonid Kruglyak

Thank you, David, for the kind words and comments. We agree that the most immediate applications of the CRISPR-based recombination mapping will be in unicellular organisms and cell culture. We also think the method holds a lot of promise for research in multicellular organisms, although we did not mean to imply that it “will be an efficient mapping method for all multicellular organisms”. Every organism will have its own set of constraints as well as experimental tools that will be relevant when adapting a new technique. To best help experts working on these organisms, here are our thoughts on your questions.

You asked about mutagenesis during recombination. We Sanger sequenced 72 of our LOH lines at the recombination site and did not observe any mutations, as described in the supplementary materials. We expect the absence of mutagenesis is because we targeted heterozygous sites where the untargeted allele did not have a usable PAM site; thus, following LOH, the targeted site is no longer present and cutting stops. In your experiments you targeted sites that were homozygous; thus, following recombination, the CRISPR target site persisted, and continued cutting ultimately led to repair by NHEJ and mutagenesis.

As to the more general question of the optimal mapping strategies in different organisms, they will depend on the ease of generating and screening for editing events, the cost and logistics of maintaining and typing many lines, and generation time, among other factors. It sounds like in Drosophila today, your related approach of generating markers with CRISPR, and then enriching for natural recombination events that separate them, is preferable. In yeast, we’ve found the opposite to be the case. As you note, even in Drosophila, our approach may be preferable for regions with low or highly non-uniform recombination rates.

Finally, mapping in sterile interspecies hybrids should be straightforward for unicellular hybrids (of which there are many examples) and for cells cultured from hybrid animals or plants. For studies in hybrid multicellular organisms, we agree that driving mitotic recombination in the early embryo may be the most promising approach. Chimeric individuals with mitotic clones will be sufficient for many traits. Depending on the system, it may in fact be possible to generate diploid individuals with uniform LOH genotype, but this is certainly beyond the scope of our paper. The calculation of the number of lines assumes that the mapping is done in a single step; as you note in your earlier comment, mapping sequentially can reduce this number dramatically.

This is a lovely method and should find wide applicability in many settings, especially for microorganisms and cell lines. However, it is not clear that this approach will be, as implied by the discussion, an efficient mapping method for all multicellular organisms. I have performed similar experiments in Drosophila, focused on meiotic recombination, on a much smaller scale, and found that CRISPR-Cas9 can indeed generate targeted recombination at gRNA target sites. In every case I tested, I found that the recombination event was associated with a deletion at the gRNA site, which is probably unimportant for most mapping efforts, but may be a concern in some specific cases, for example for clinical applications. It would be interesting to know how often mutations occurred at the targeted gRNA site in this study.

The wider issue, however, is whether CRISPR-mediated recombination will be more efficient than other methods of mapping. After careful consideration of all the costs and the time involved in each of the steps for Drosophila, we have decided that targeted meiotic recombination using flanking visible markers will be, in most cases, considerably more efficient than CRISPR-mediated recombination. This is mainly due to the large expense of injecting embryos and the extensive effort and time required to screen injected animals for appropriate events. It is both cheaper and faster to generate markers (with CRISPR) and then perform a large meiotic recombination mapping experiment than it would be to generate the lines required for CRISPR-mediated recombination mapping. It is possible to dramatically reduce costs by, for example, mapping sequentially at finer resolution. But this approach would require much more time than marker-assisted mapping. If someone develops a rapid and cheap method of reliably introducing DNA into Drosophila embryos, then this calculus might change.

However, it is possible to imagine situations where CRISPR-mediated mapping would be preferable, even for Drosophila. For example, some genomic regions display extremely low or highly non-uniform recombination rates. It is possible that CRISPR-mediated mapping could provide a reasonable approach to fine mapping genes in these regions.

The authors also propose the exciting possibility that CRISPR-mediated loss of heterozygosity could be used to map traits in sterile species hybrids. It is not entirely obvious to me how this experiment would proceed and I hope the authors can illuminate me. If we imagine driving a recombination event in the early embryo (with maternal Cas9 from one parent and gRNA from a second parent), then at best we would end up with chimeric individuals carrying mitotic clones. I don’t think one could generate diploid animals where all cells carried the same loss of heterozygosity event. Even if we could, this experiment would require construction of a substantial number of stable transgenic lines expressing gRNAs. Mapping an ~20Mbp chromosome arm to ~10kb would require on the order of two-thousand transgenic lines. Not an undertaking to be taken lightly. It is already possible to perform similar tests (hemizygosity tests) using D. melanogaster deficiency lines in crosses with D. simulans, so perhaps CRISPR-mediated LOH could complement these deficiency screens for fine mapping efforts. But, at the moment, it is not clear to me how to do the experiment.

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