Congratulations to Prof. Andrew Kellett, Dublin City University and SSPC Molecules III Funded Investigator on receiving an IRC Laureate Consolidator award for ENACT: Gene Editing with Nucleic Acid Click Chemistry to the value of €599,590. This research project seeks to develop a new type of gene technology that will be tested against cancer causing genes that are present in aggressive human cancers.
There is major interest in targeting the human genome for therapeutic, engineering, and knockout applications. State-of-the art gene editors employ a common group of enzymes called nucleases that cut DNA precisely. These enzymes have been exploited in breakthrough technologies including zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR), with CRISPR/Cas-9 now considered the gold standard for gene editing.
The ENACT project seeks to develop a new type of gene technology that contains two components: an artificial chemical nuclease containing a reactive metal ion capable of damaging DNA, and targeting vectors called triplex forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) and peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) that can recognise specific cancer-causing genes. Therefore, under the guidance of the TFO or PNA probe, the artificial nuclease will sequence-specifically damage targeted genes of interest in human cancer cells. Two methods will be examined to generate the chemical nuclease-TFO hybrids and both involve a specific type of spring-loaded chemical reaction called ‘click chemistry’. A variety of metal ions—including copper and ruthenium—within the chemical nuclease component will be investigated, with each designed to interact with DNA in a unique way. A range of modifications will also be investigated to ensure the hybrid can survive in biological environments. The hybrid technology will be tested against cancer causing genes that are present in aggressive human cancers, including triple negative breast cancer and glioblastoma multiforme.
The aim of the Consolidator Laureate Award is to enable excellent mid-career researchers with an established track record to consolidate their own research programme or team. Funding IS awarded solely on the basis of excellence, assessed through a rigorous and independent international peer-review process. Funding will enable awardees to enhance their track record and international competitiveness.
See full list of awardees here