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麻省理工学院华裔教授张锋 获加拿大科学最高国际奖
麻省理工学院华裔教授张锋 获加拿大科学最高国际奖
3/24/2016 9:27:22 AM | 浏览:3235 | 评论:0

麻省理工学院华裔教授张锋 获加拿大科学最高国际奖

  布罗德研究所(Broad Institute)核心成员、麻省理工学院大脑与认知科学系副教授张锋(Feng Zhang)因在CRISPR-Cas9基因编辑系统开发中做出的杰出贡献,获得加拿大最负盛名的盖尔德纳国际奖(Canada Gairdner International Award)。

  出生于中国石家庄、年仅34岁已获过“自然”杂志年度十大科学人物等众多奖项的张锋此次与其他四位CRISPR领域的顶尖科学家一起获的2016年度盖尔德纳国际奖。

  张锋说,盖尔德纳奖是对他整个团队的巨大认可,他很荣幸与CRISPR领域的其他同行一起分享这一荣誉。他说,下一个十年,科学家将能够通过CRISPR-Cas9系统所获得理解和发现来引领新的创新,进而转化为新的治疗方法和新产品来造福我们的生活。

麻省理工学院华裔教授张锋 获加拿大科学最高国际奖

Photo:Len Rubenstein/Broad Institute Communications

張锋表示,該獎項是對他整個團隊的巨大認可,他很榮幸與CRISPR領域的其他同行,一起分享這個榮譽。他說,期待下一個十年,科學家能把透過CRISPR-Cas9系統獲得的發現,用來引領創新技術,開發新的治療方法和產品,造福人類生活。

張锋的長期研究目標之一,是使用基因組編輯技術研究神經系統,以開發治療精神疾病的新方法。他說,很慶幸能與一個優秀的學生和博士後團隊,共同努力提升編輯和理解基因組的能力。

MIT科學院院長斯普斯爾談到,CRISPR是一個革命性的突破,將擴展科學新知,讓人們能夠迎接21世紀的健康挑戰。CRISPR是一串DNA序列,能夠識別入侵的病毒,派出一種特殊的酶切碎病毒,並利用病毒剩下的殘渣形成初級免疫系統。

加拿大蓋爾德納國際獎由33位來自全球頂尖科學家組成的醫療諮詢委員會,每年選出五位在醫學研究有卓越貢獻的獲獎者,獲獎可獲得10萬元加幣獎金。
張锋幼年時隨家人移民到愛阿華州,2004年在哈佛大學取得化學及物理學士,2009年在史丹福大學取得化學及生物工程博士。

 

CRISPR Pioneer Feng Zhang Talks About What's Next for Gene Editing

Written by Kate Lunau Motherboard Editor

When Feng Zhang was a kid growing up in Iowa, he saw Jurassic Park, like just about everybody else. He was struck by the idea that biology might be programmable, like a computer. Now a core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, he pioneered a powerful new gene editing system, CRISPR/cas9, that lets scientists rewrite genetic code.

In the past few years, the use of CRISPR has exploded. On Wednesday, all five of the scientists announced as winners of the 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award—a prestigious $100,000 prize that’s often called a precursor to winning the Nobel—worked on CRISPR's development:the others were Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Philippe Horvath and Rodolphe Barrangou.(Anthony Fauci received the John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, and Frank Plummer the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, both for for HIV research.)

After a breakfast in downtown Toronto toasting Zhang and the others, he and I sat in the emptying ballroom, talking about CRISPR and its future.

Feng Zhang, 34, is the youngest head of a lab at the Broad Institute. Photo:Len Rubenstein/Broad Institute Communications

“The field is still very young,” said Zhang, a neurobiologist, who’s accustomed to breaking ground:he’s also one of the co-inventors of optogenetics, a technique scientists use to switch brain cells on and off with light. Researchers have been working with CRISPR for decades in bacteria(it was seen as a way to make better yogurt, for one thing), but it’s only since about 2012 that they could see its promise in human cells. To have netted a Gairdner for this work, when the field is still so young, “is really incredible,” he told me. It speaks to the excitement around this technology.

CRISPR is essentially an enzyme that slices DNA like a pair of scissors, and a guide RNA that takes it to the right spot in the genome.(It was developed from a method that bacteria use to fight off viruses.)Whether CRISPR is a force for good depends on who you ask. Some say it will bring new cures for diseases, hardier crops to feed a hungry planet, and much-needed sources of clean fuel. If you take a darker view, CRISPR ushers in a dystopian age of designer babies and genetically modified people.

Scientists are using it to try to cure HIV, to find new treatments for muscular dystrophy, to understand killer cancers. Scientists have used gene editing to make “micropigs” for pets, and super-muscled beagle dogs. In 2015, a team in China announced they’d charged ahead and used CRISPR to edit(non-viable)human embryos. Some talk about using it to bring back the woolly mammoth, because why not?

麻省理工学院华裔教授张锋 获加拿大科学最高国际奖

Zhang in the lab. Photo:Justin Knight

Often compared to the cut-and-paste program on a word processor, CRISPR is so simple that even DIY biohackers are getting in on it. Anyone with molecular biology skills and a decent lab can theoretically use it to rewrite genetic code.

“CRISPR has democratized gene editing,” Zhang told me.

Zhang’s hope is that CRISPR will give us a better way to understand psychiatric diseases, including depression, schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s. They’re all very hard to study in lab animals, and drug development has lagged. “When the mechanism of disease isn’t clear, developing drugs is hard,” he said. “With CRISPR, we can start to understand the genetic basis of disease.”

He’s working on ways to make gene editing more accurate. “We’re trying to be inspired by nature,” he continued. “Many organisms have evolved interesting DNA repair mechanisms, independent of CRISPR.” He’s very interested in finding enzymes that target RNA instead of DNA, for instance, which is a way to to avoid making inheritable or permanent changes to the human genome.

We aren’t yet at the point of using gene editing to directly treat patients, but that will come. In late 2015, scientists at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London reported on an experimental method they'd used to treat a baby girl called Layla, who had terminal leukemia. Starting out with donor blood, they edited genes in immune cells to attack her cancer, then infused the baby with those genetically modified cells. It put her in remission long enough to accept a bone marrow transplant—and eventually go home.

They hope to do a clinical trial later this year.

Biologists and ethicists alike are already fretting over a world of “genetic haves” and “have-nots"

When asked about whether he has any concerns around the use of CRISPR—a technology that’s so efficient, and so accessible—Zhang didn’t seem overly worried, putting his faith in the scientific community. “Those are very serious topics that need to be grappled with,” he acknowledged, recognizing that improper use of technology could lead to “undesirable” consequences(what, he didn’t specify).

Scientists were concerned enough that, in December, they convened a meeting in Washington to debate the ethics of what some are already doing in their labs, and what others probably hope to do soon. They’ve put the brakes on using CRISPR to edit human embryos for now. “The good thing is, there was a remarkable level of agreement, despite differences in culture, and the different types of disease that each culture is affected by,” said Zhang. “There is agreement that we need to be very careful.”

But scientists don’t always see eye-to-eye, and governments can opt to strike out on their own. The UK, for one, is alone in approving so-called “three-parent babies,” a modified version of IVF that will help cure certain diseases, but will also pass along inheritable changes to the next generation—changes we can’t later take back. The first baby born of the procedure could arrive as soon as this year.

In the future, if some countries decide to allow genetic editing in human embryos to eliminate disease, even to enhance or select for certain qualities—eye colour, height, intelligence—it’s hard to see how we’ll stop them. Biologists and ethicists alike are already fretting over a world of “genetic haves” and “have-nots,” when genetic tweaks can be paid for.

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