Potential CRISPR setback jolts investors, but researchers say there’s no need to panic


On [January 8], the world of science awoke to news that suddenly cast uncomfortable doubt on many of the past five years’ major breakthroughs: A new paper had identified a possible barrier to using the revolutionary gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 in humans. The news incited a temporary hysteria that sent the stocks of all three major CRISPR biotech firms tumbling in premarket trading, declining by as much as 11.9 percent.

But there’s no need to panic. This isn’t a death knell for the CRISPR—at least not yet.

“This isn’t a roadblock. I think it’s a bump,” Stanford’s Matthew Porteus, a senior author of the paper, told Gizmodo. “As far as how big a bump? It’s too early to tell.”

Scientists not involved with the study echoed Porteus’s comments, suggesting that the results were unlikely to hold back the fast-advancing field of gene editing.

“This was a fully expected observation, since we are all constantly exposed to many microbes,” said Harvard geneticist George Church.

Church said that there are plenty of potential workarounds to the problem, such as simply using other Cas9 proteins, perhaps those derived from bacteria less commonly encountered by humans.

The reaction might also be avoided by editing cells outside of the body, as is common for diseases that affect the blood.

Read full, original post: Biotech Stocks Drop After Troubling CRISPR Study, but Gene Editing Is Still the Future

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