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Wyss Institute, Cellectis to Collaborate on Cell Line Genome Recoding Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Cellectis announced today that they will collaborate on a project that the Wyss has undertaken to recode the genome of cell lines derived from humans and other species, and to develop new tools and methods to achieve that goal.

The cell lines would be engineered to resist debilitating viral infections while carrying out their normal functions, or even perform entirely new functions, the Wyss said.

Through the Recode project, the Wyss is aiming to extensively and functionally modify existing genomes in cells and whole organisms, with the goal of converting them into research tools and clinical and biotechnological products. The project is building on previous efforts by the Wyss' George Church, whose group successfully reduced the number of codons in the E. coli genome from 64 to 63. This caused the recoded bacteria to become resistant to most viruses, the institute noted.

Under the terms of the collaboration with Cellectis, Church and his team will use the French company's TALEN gene editing technology to help modify codons at 400,000 locations across the protein-coding regions of the human genome with the aim of creating virus-resistant human cells.

"The Recode project aims to create ultra-safe human cells that are resistant to infection with all viruses and prions. These cells and the technologies we are developing along the way will enable more effective ways to manufacture protein therapeutics, vaccines, cell therapies, and transplantable organs," Church said in a statement.

Cellectis CEO André Choulika added that the "precision, the performance, and the flexibility of TALEN technology makes it the optimal gene editing platform for such a cutting-edge project."