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Reading Roundup: Robots, Hiring Time, CRISPR Wars, More

June 2, 2018
by Pat Joseph


UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna has chalked up another award for her discovery of the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool. The Kavli Prize in nanoscience is worth $1 million and will be shared among the three recipients, which includes Doudna’s collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute.

Meanwhile, the legal battle between UC and the Broad Institute (of MIT and Harvard) over who deserves credit for (and, perhaps just as importantly, the patent on) CRISPR continues. According to this article in STAT, while the legal battle has largely gone Broad’s way, “those rooting for Doudna and Charpentier point to a profound disconnect between law and science: The duo has almost run the table of major awards for CRISPR. They shared the 2015 Breakthrough Prize, the 2015 Gruber Prize in genetics, the 2016 Warren Alpert Prize …, and several others. The Kavli nanoscience prize, chosen by a committee of five physicists, is now the latest.”

Aggregating the Aggregators

We recently ran a story on former New York Times reporter and Cal J-school alum Mike McPhate, who left his former employer to launch the California Sun, his daily news round-up of all things Golden State. Before that, though, he was doing much the same for the Gray Lady, producing their California Today newsletter, which, by the way, is edited by another Cal alumna, Julie Bloom. We wrote about her here.

We’re fans and regular readers of both newsletters, but honestly they were a little late in coming to the aggregation game when compared to Dave Pell, yet another Berkeley grad (and angel investor), who for years now has penned NextDraft, a snappy, insightful take on the day’s news, (not limited to California). Pell’s motto: “I am the algorithm.”

Rooting for Robots

If you haven’t been on the Cal campus in a while, you may not be familiar with Kiwibots, the cute little robots that deliver food around Berkeley. The business grew out of the Berkeley’s Skydeck startup accelerator, a partnership between the Haas School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. California contributor Coby McDonald wrote a nice piece about Kiwis called “Forget the Robot Apocalypse, Order Lunch.” It’s a fun read even for those who, like yours truly, think robots will one day eat our lunches, not deliver them.

Hiring Time

Finally, the primary elections are on Tuesday, June 5. To assist in your decision, the folks at CalMatters have created this online voting guide, which treats the candidates as they ought to be seen—as job applicants. Among the main people responsible for pulling the impressive package together are our erstwhile and much-missed colleague, Vicki Haddock, and reporter and Cal alum Ben Christopher, who also happens to be the son of California’s Wendy Miller.  (We’d point you to the voter guide in any case, but we still wanted to give a shoutout to Vicki and Ben.)

Among the questions they asked gubernatorial applicants is what book every Californian should read. The answers ranged from the Bible to Built to Last (?) to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which, come to think of it, takes its title (by way of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) from the Book of Revelations: “So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.”

Not sure what that means, but it sounds ominous. And there you go. Don’t forget to vote.

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