New York University biologist Neville Sanjana has received the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's 2018 Young Faculty Award for his proposal to develop new tools for precise gene repair using CRISPR, a pioneering gene-editing technology.
"Over the past five years, CRISPR systems have made it relatively easy to knock-out or block expression of certain genes in human cells," explains Sanjana, assistant professor in NYU's Department of Biology and Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU School of Medicine. "However, it has been more challenging to perform precise gene surgery to correct DNA mutations in these genes--a significant obstacle as many serious genetic diseases are caused by small mutations."
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) award will fund work to accelerate development of new methods for precision gene editing to repair disease-causing mutations.
Last year, Sanjana, a core faculty member at the New York Genome Center and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute uncovered dozens of novel genes involved in resistance to therapies that harness the immune system to fight cancer.
The findings, which appeared in the journal Nature, stemmed from the team's development of a novel use of CRISPR--a "two-cell type" CRISPR assay system that specifically examines how genetic mutations in one cell can affect the interaction between two different cell types.
DARPA Young Faculty awards identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and researchers at non-profit research institutions with the aim of addressing national security challenges and advancing fundamental research in diverse disciplines.