Genome engineering is an ever-growing part of the news cycle as under-standing and capabilities in DNA sequencing, synthesis, and modification continue to advance. However, as the use of genome engineering tools—including zinc fingers (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-associated protein 9 (CRISPR/Cas9)—continues to grow in research and clinical settings, genome cleavage specificity and alternative methods to precisely control gene expression become increasingly important. If specificity and other challenges can be addressed, genome engineering has the potential to alter any DNA or RNA sequence, whether in a bacterium, plant, animal, or human being, and could result in an almost limitless range of possible applications in living things. Development of programmable nucleases could eventually enable the broad application of these or other programmable nucleases to treat human genetic diseases, develop new industrial biotechnological products, improve crop and livestock productivity, and address conservation and invasive species challenges.
The first speaker, Krishanu Saha (University of Wisconsin), introduced genome engineering and the rise of CRISPR-Cas9, and explained the wideranging application areas available through this technology, including research and human therapeutics. Subsequent speakers provided specific applications of this technology across species and industries. Omar Akbari (University of California, San Diego) discussed the impact of genome engineering on ecosystems, through the example of mosquito transmission of human diseases, including a discussion of ethical, legal, and social implications considered by researchers in the field. Patrick Boyle of Ginkgo Bioworks described industrial scaleup and wideranging applications for manufacturing molecules through
iterative design and development. Finally, Samantha Maragh (National Institute of Standards and Technology) illuminated the need for standards and data sharing for this rapidly evolving field, and showcased the unique perspective and contributions of NIST to help advance the field.