Podcast: CRISPR advances, HIV cures and a perfect predator for superbugs

5-17-2019 phage news
Image: Eliava

Geneticist Kat Arney explores the latest advances in genetic engineering and health technology at the recent Manova Health Summit in Minneapolis, including CRISPR-based gene therapies, infection-fighting viruses and a potential cure for HIV. Plus exclusive interviews with leading US health journalists Katie Couric and Jane Brody.

Arney talks with Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at UC San Diego, who’s taking an unusual approach to treating antibiotic-resistant superbug infections, using tiny bacteria-busting viruses called phage – the ‘perfect predator’, as she describes them in her new book of the same name.

Strathdee is now bringing phage therapy to the world through IPATH, the Innovative Centre for Phage Therapy at UCSD, but she only started working on it by accident when her husband fell desperately ill with a superbug infection while they were on vacation.

We hear from Cambridge University’s Professor Ravi Gupta, who hit the headlines earlier this year after apparently completely curing a man of HIV through a stem cell transplant. Combining this approach with gene editing technology like CRISPR could be the path to a future cure for many more HIV-positive people around the world.

Related article:  Biotech firms rush to enter CRISPR crop market to meet global food demand

Staying with CRISPR, Arney speaks t0 Vinod Jaskula-Ranga, the founder and CEO of Hunterian Medicine, who is addressing the biggest challenge in gene therapy today: how to deliver genetic engineering tools directly into cells in the body.

Jaskula-Ranga has developed a way of packaging the molecular tools for CRISPR into a tiny virus that can deliver them right where they’re needed.

Finally, Arney catches up with two of the most influential health journalists in the US – Katie Couric, whose on-air colonoscopy made headlines nearly 20 years ago, and veteran New York Times columnist Jane Brody.

Couric reflects on progress in cancer advocacy and the responsibility of journalists and celebrities to communicate accurate science, while Brody gives her prescription for a healthy life.

Full transcript, credits and show notes are available here. 

Genetics Unzipped is presented by award-winning science communicator and biologist Kat Arney and produced by First Create the Media for the UK Genetics Society. Follow Kat on Twitter @Kat_Arney, Genetics Unzipped @geneticsunzip, and the Genetics Society at @GenSocUK

Listen to Genetics Unzipped on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts

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