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NIH Awards Grant to Iowa State University for Gene Editing in Animals

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has granted an Iowa State University scientist $759,853 for Fiscal Year 2016 to study whether restoring wild type alleles of disease-associated mutated genes can also restore health.

Jeffrey Essner, a genetics professor at ISU, told GenomeWeb the funding is part of a four-year award that will total approximately $3 million.

His lab will develop vectors to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) into cells to make "conditional and revertible alleles," leveraging existing genome-editing techniques such as homologous recombination to integrate transgenes into the host genome. 

"While we will develop these methodologies in zebrafish due to their ease of gene delivery, we anticipate these methodologies will not only enhance the efficiency of gene editing but will be readily adaptable for use in other model organisms and large animals," Essner wrote in the grant abstract.

"We want to do this in pigs and cows," he said, adding that his lab will eventually work with Saint Paul, Minnesota-based ag-bio firm Recombinetics to do so.

In August 2015, the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded Recombinetics $434,718 to evaluate the utility of gene editing to create cattle without horns.