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Taiwan firms urged to invest in commercialization of genome editing

Bryan Chuang, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0

While Taiwan electronics industry is aggressively mulling over how to tap the huge business opportunities to be created by quantum computers, the country's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has urged businesses to play a crucial role in commercializing genome editing applications. Both quantum computer and genome editing are deemed the two most important tech inventions that will affect human beings in the future.

Tom Yeh, chief of the MOST's Science and Technology Division at Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, said that Jennier Doudna, a professor of chemistry, biochemistry & molecular biology at UC Berkeley, has her invention - genome editing technology - patented in the US in 2018 after obtaining a patent right from the European Patent Office in 2017.

Yeh said the patent right means that gene editing efficiency is fast enough for industrial application, and can be further applied to botany, animal and human eukaryotic cells. As genome editing is regarded as a revolutionary technology that can subvert existing genetic disease therapies, many frontier tech firms are already racing to make deployments in relevant application fields to tap immense lucrative market opportunities, Yeh added.

Yeh revealed that the cover of the July 2018 issue of the Trends in Cancer published by US-based Cell Press highlights a featured article jointly contributed by Doudna and two Taiwan post-doctorate researchers Huang Chun-hao and Lee Ko-chuan, with the article titled "Applications of CRISPR-Cas Enzymes in Cancer Therapeutics and Detection." In the article, the authors discuss the promises and hurdles in translating the revolutionary technology of genome editing into effective and safe clinical applications for cancer treatment and diagnosis.

Yeh said that Doudna's research team has moved to transfer its research achievements to startups for industrial applications. Among the startups, Caribou Biosciences is dedicated to biomedicines, agricultural and biological infrastructure research; Intellia Therapeutics is devoted to studies on cancer and autoimmune diseases; and Editas Medicine focuses on evolutions of genetic medicines.

Many more new functions and applications associated with genome editing are undergoing industrialization in Silicon Valley in 2018, Yeh indicated, adding that Mammoth Biosciences founded by Doudna's doctoral students, for instance, is engaged in using genome editing technology to detect DNAs of specific diseases.

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