The announcement came in June. Berkeley Extension, the continuing education arm of UC Berkeley, was offering its first-ever introductory course—CRISPR Genome Editing: From Biology to Technology—on the revolutionary new tool that allows scientists to make precise edits in the genome. A lab and lecture course on CRISPR for anyone who has the interest (and money) to enroll? What a crazy idea. It seemed a bit like offering a workshop on how to enrich plutonium.
One of biology’s wilder facts is that we’re all family. You and me, sure, but also me and a mushroom. Triceratops shared genes with you. So does the virus that makes you cough, and a rosebush. Bacteria left us on the tree of life around 2.7 billion years ago, but the wet world they came from is still ours: One code runs all of life. The same proteins that imprint memories in your neurons, for example, do so in octopi, ravens, and sea slugs. This genetic conservation means tricks from one species can be hijacked. If you stick a jellyfish gene in a monkey, it’ll glow green.
Brave New World author Aldous Huxley came to Berkeley (his son’s alma mater) in 1962 and delivered a speech on campus entitled “The Ultimate Revolution.” It ended as follows: “Our business is to be aware of what is happening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this might be abused, and then, if possible, to see that the enormous powers which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation.”
Here in the Bay Area, where local, organic, and fresh have long been dominant adjectives as well as a prevailing ethos around what we consume, genetically modified alternatives are forcing consumers to confront a new understanding of authenticity when it comes to food and drink. And what’s brewing at Berkeley might just have beer enthusiasts clutching their pearls—or their hops.
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.
Posted on June 1, 2018 - 5:59pm
On April 13, 1888, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who made millions turning his invention into munitions and selling them to the armies of the world, was aghast to read a story in a Paris newspaper that mistakenly reported his death.
It was actually his older brother, Ludvig, who had died, but Alfred was horrified by the headline: “The merchant of death is dead.”
The story went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever, died yesterday.”
Posted on October 16, 2017 - 2:08pm
Posted on April 27, 2017 - 5:37pm
Something remarkable has happened on the seventh floor of UC Berkeley’s Stanley Hall, where Professor Jennifer Doudna’s lab resides.