MIT professor and co-discoverer of CRISPR Feng Zhang speaks at Berkeley Forum event

Michael Wan/Staff

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The Anna Head Alumnae Hall at UC Berkeley was packed with more than 200 attendees Wednesday evening as Feng Zhang, professor of biomedical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-discoverer of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology, spoke on campus about the revolutionary capacities of the biological mechanism.

The Berkeley Forum, in collaboration with campus organization MCBcDNA, invited Zhang because of his “monumental role” in the progress and advancement of the genomic editing system, according to Hersh Bhargava, technology director for the Berkeley Forum.

“The development of the CRISPR-Cas9 genomic technology is something that is really going to significantly change not only science and research, but also humanity,” Bhargava said.

Zhang said at the event that CRISPR “harnesses nature’s diversity” — a phenomenon that, according to Zhang, takes advantage of understanding the processes in naturally occurring mechanisms of organisms in order to develop genome-editing tools.

Zhang emphasized the importance of genetic manipulation through CRISPR and how it can be beneficial to the discovery of both harmful and beneficial genetic mutations.

According to Zhang, more than 100,000 different bacterial genomes are in existence and have not yet been comprehensively studied. Zhang added that these genomes encode proteins of unknown functions, with many of them having “very powerful” biotechnological capabilities.

“By developing an advanced computational algorithm, we will be able to identify the specific functionalities (and) we can systematically profile them and turn them into useful biological tools,” Zhang said at the event.

Zhang described the CRISPR gene-editing technology as “molecular scissors” that can make cuts on specific locations in genomes.

“You can think of these cuts as cursors in Microsoft Word,” Zhang said at the event.  “Wherever you’re placing the cut in the genome, that’s where you’re placing these cursors in your document and, in this case, the document is the genome.”

On Feb. 15, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that there was no interference between the CRISPR technology patents requested by the Broad Institute of MIT, Harvard and the University of California. The board determined that the two parties’ applications of the CRISPR technology were separately patentable, prompting UC Berkeley to release a statement.

“We continue to maintain that the evidence overwhelmingly supports our position that the Doudna/Charpentier team was the first group to invent this technology,” the statement said.

Campus professor of molecular and cell biology Jennifer Doudna and members of her lab could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Zhang emphasized the importance of other institutions’ contributions to the CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

“I think that this is the way we should approach the technology — make it accessible and do not stifle progress enabling as many people as possible (to use it),” Zhang said at the event.

Mariah De Zuzuarregui is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mdezuzuarregui.

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  • Kill TalmudScum

    Just as I suspected: The technology was created by Whites, and now the Chinese guy is trying to claim credit for it.

    There was another case a few years back where a chinese mathematician tried to steal credit for himself from a Russian mathematician. It was a big controversy. It was proven in the end though that the Chinese guy was lying.

    Why should that come as any surprise from a “culture” with no God, no morality, or any shame at all to prevent you from stealing other people’s work? This is a “culture” where they shove old people and children out of the way when they’re standing in line. THe bottom line is, the chinese are savages, and they have NEVER made a single discovery or invention in their history. So now all of a sudden they are creating all these brand new technologies that WHites just happen to have created first?

    I don’t think so. These are little savages who shove old people around when it suits them; stealing the creations and discoveries of White people is pretty much par for the course when it comes to Chinese and their total lack of creative ability, and total lack of any kind of aesthetic sense whatsoever.

    • Kill TalmudScum

      P.S., btw, they area also chronic academic cheaters. It doesn’t matter though, because all their bottom-feeding tactics will never result in a significant improvement to the human condition, the kind of improvements that Whites have made thousands of, and continue to do, blessing the entire planet with things like phones, computers, electricity, refrigeration, aviation, etc. Chinese invented NOT ONE of these things, and it’s likely they never will. If they had the ability, they would have done it already. Even now, with the generosity of Whites in allowing these savages into their universities, they are still incapable of scientific or artistic creativity, just playing with and making slight modifications to the things that Whites invent and discover.

  • Kill TalmudScum

    It seems like this chinese guy is trying to take credit for something that, as always, was invented and discovered by Whites. I guess that plays into the affirmative-action narrative pushed by the jewish dog sht that have made such a mockery of UC Berkeley and every other top university in the country.

    “co-discoverer” – OK. Have chinese people EVER discovered ANYTHING in the past? Yeah, I know they “invented the noodle” 800 years ago or whatever, and even that is a pretty dubious claim.

    Please tell me any major scientific, technological or creative breatkthrough that Chinese have EVER made. This country was living in grass shacks until recently. The only techology they’re capable of dealing with is technology that was created by Whites, in other words, everything that’s ever been invented in the last 1000 years.

    The reality is, they’re a backward nation of savages who shove old people out of the way when they stand in line for something. They’re a nation of conformists with no creative capability whatsoever, so when I see this chinese guy trying to claim credit for this, it’s reasonable to be doubtful based on the paltry track record of Chinese scientific accomplishments, which are exactly zero.

    • Kill TalmudScum

      btw, the I-Ching, the religion of Buddhism, and all those pyramids all over China were created by WHITE PEOPLE – red haired, blue eyed white people wearing plaid clothing just like what you wear today. The Chinese try to suppress this information because it would shame them to think that the only good things from their culture of brutal savagery came from Whites.

      Just google “whites in china, pyramids”, and you will see the THOUSANDS of White mummies that were discovered inside these giant pyramids in China that they keep trying to downplay and hide. Don’t expect to EVER hear one of your douchebag libtard professors at Berkeley mention it, because it doesn’t play into their anti-White hate narrative.

      • Kill TalmudScum

        Very similar to the blond haried blue eyed mummies from the pyramids in Egypt. And the Whites that built Macchu Piccu.

  • ShadrachSmith

    The funny part is that bacteria evolved the gene cutting tool to fight invading viruses. People just use it, we didn’t figure out how to do it, bacteria did. It seems bacteria is way ahead of people in evolution. That’s worth a six pack and some conversation.

  • Andrew H

    Was Professor Doudha present at the forum? Hopefully she and Professor Zhang are in good terms.