Laurie Wang

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences conducted a review on the recent advances in genomic design that could, sometime in the future, allow scientists to tailor drug treatments based on patients’ genomes. Their review was recently published in the journal Nature. Two of the review’s authors, Adrian Haimovich and Farren Isaacs, spoke with the News about the paper.

Q: What do you think the one or two most important genomic advances have been [in the past few years]? What sorts of work are they applicable to?

A: (Isaacs) This is a review paper and as such highlights several key advances in genome engineering. These include nuclease gene editing technologies, multiplex genome engineering technologies and whole genome synthesis technologies. Together, these technologies establish the foundation to redesign genomes and generate targeted DNA modifications in the genomes of diverse species from bacteria to human cells. These technologies are changing the way industrial biotechnology harnesses cells for production of high-value compounds and could open a new era in human gene therapy.

Q: What was the inspiration for this review?

A: (Isaacs) This review paper was inspired by recent advances in genomics, which is transitioning from a discipline of “reading” (or sequencing) to “writing” (or editing) genomes.

Q: What drew you to this field, and how did you get involved in this review?

A: (Haimovich): I’m an M.D. and Ph.D. student at the Yale School of Medicine, in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. I actually came from an undergraduate degree in engineering. We’re in the early explosive days of synthetic biology. During my clinical training, I could already start to see a future where these sorts of repurposed biological ideas were dramatically affecting and improving people’s lives inside and outside of the clinic.

Q: What is the biggest benefit of having a compilation like this for people to look at?

A: (Haimovich): A successful review article will synthesize the field, update all sorts of different people coming from other fields about what our field is doing. Ultimately we hope to inspire our colleagues and also the next generation of scientists who might be reading a review article like this (in advanced undergraduate coursework for example), to come up with new ideas. It’s about helping draw people in, and then pointing them where to go next.

Q: Are there any other important takeaways from the review?

A: (Haimovich): The living world around us is an amazing place. There are countless organisms around us that have already been studied, which means that there are even more that we still need to investigate. We dream of a future where we can learn from the world around us in a very basic biological sense and then repurpose that understanding to help all of humanity, be in it medicine, energy or countless other areas. As much as we want to learn, we also want to inspire, and hopefully that’s something our readers take away.