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Zhang, Big Data, and Lab Doudna

Sharon Begley, STAT, Meet one of the world’s most groundbreaking scientists. He’s 34. , here.

Zhang helped create two revolutionary genetic and neuroscience technologies. As a graduate student, he was a key member of the team that figured out how to light up neurons in the brain, allowing scientists to unravel which circuits control which behaviors and search for the roots of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Just a few years later, Zhang made the discovery that would vault him into the front ranks of the world’s biologists: how to edit the genomes of plants and animals—including humans—quickly, easily, and efficiently.The tool is already being used in the lab to make human cells impervious to HIV; cure mice of muscular dystrophy, cataracts, and a hereditary liver disease; and improve crops including rice, tomatoes, oranges, tobacco, and wheat. But it also could be used to modify genes in human eggs, sperm, and embryos, raising the specter of parents choosing their baby’s traits — personality, athletic ability, looks — like options on a Lexus.Called CRISPR-Cas9, the technology quickly spawned three companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in venture financing and opened a new era in molecular biology.It’s “changing how we do science,” said MIT biologist Phillip Sharp, who shared the 1993 Nobel prize in medicine.

Nature, Big Data in Biomedicine, here.

The Doudna Lab, RNA Biology, here. Structure RevBio like this in your favorite Institution, even though it is more classical Theory than Molecular Biology.

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