News

March 22, 2019

University of California, Berkeley, scientists developed new Cas9 variants that could make CRISPR safer. (kirstypargeter/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

One big challenge facing the development of CRISPR gene editing for use in humans is the fear that the Cas9 "scissors" used in the technology could cause unintended off-target effects. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have come up with a potential solution: a “switch” mechanism that could keep the Cas9 enzyme turned off until it reaches its target site.

In a recent study co-authored by CRIPSR pioneer Jennifer Doudna and published in the journal Cell, the UC Berkeley team described how they used an engineering technique called circular permutation to create Cas9 variants, "ProCas9s," that allow CRISPR to be turned on only in the targeted cells.

March 15, 2019

High-quality bespoke nanocrystalsTiny, easy-to-produce particles, called quantum dots, may soon take the place of more expensive single crystal semiconductors in advanced electronics found in solar panels, camera sensors and medical imaging tools. Although quantum dots have begun to break into the consumer market – in the form of quantum dot TVs – they have been hampered by long-standing uncertainties about their quality. Now, a new measurement technique developed by researchers at Stanford University and UC Berkeley may finally dissolve those doubts.

Michelle ChangUC Berkeley researchers, led by Professor of Chemistry Michelle Chang, have discovered a biosynthetic pathway that makes amino acids containing terminal alkynes. Because such functional groups are rare in natural products, they provide a handle for chemistry that’s not generally found in biological organisms. For example, chemists could use such groups to attach fluorescent dyes to proteins via click chemistry.

Steven Hetts, MD, UCSFA research team from UCSF, UC Berkeley and 3D Printer Carbon, Inc. have created a drug sponge to absorb excess chemotherapy medication. The sponge is being designed so that after the chemotherapy has gone through the tumor, the part that hasn't treated the tumor could bind to the device, absorbing the excess dose like a "drug sponge." At the end of the procedure, the device is removed from the body, preventing the spread of toxicity throughout the body. "

March 13, 2019

Ripple MilkGraduates of the College’s Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering departments are making news as they become market innovators with their recent startups and products. News stories about Lygos, Chemistry and Ripple look at the latest chemistry innovations and funding for these companies.

March 11, 2019

Michael Boreen and Trevor LohreyThis year's grand prize in campus lab safety was awarded to the Arnold lab group in Chemistry, headed by Professor of Chemistry and Undergraduate Dean John Arnold. Lab safety coordinators and chemistry graduate students Michael Boreen and Trevor Lohrey were also aknowledged and on hand to accept the award for the group in February."

March 9, 2019

John Hartwig In a press release issued in January by the Wolf Foundation in Israel, it was announced that Professors John Hartwig and Stephen Buchwald (MIT) had been jointly awarded the 2019 Wolf Prize in Chemistry for independently harnessing cross coupling for the making of carbon-heteroatom bonds. The Foundation noted, “These bonds and especially the carbon-nitrogen bonds are immensely important, because such bonds constitute a very basis of medicinal chemistry."

March 8, 2019

Frances ArnoldFrances Arnold admits it will be an emotional moment Friday when, as winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, she’ll be the featured attraction at UC Berkeley for a Dean’s Dinner and reception at the College of Chemistry.

March 7, 2019

Jean M.J. FréchetNew research led by Professor emeritus Jean M.J. Fréchet, a leading American chemist, has led to the development of innovative polymeric carriers for transportation of drugs and vaccines inside the human body, and the design of electroactive polymers used for organic transistors and solar cells. For his pioneering work in these areas, Professor Frechet has recently been awarded the 2019 King Faisal Prize in Science.

March 4, 2019

Emily DerbyshireAs alumna Emily Derbyshire was wrapping up her PhD in 2008 at UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry and considering where to do her postdoc, Derbyshire gravitated toward malaria. “It was a problem that was not getting a lot of attention at the time,” despite its large human impact, she says. That’s what led her to dissecting mosquito throats: the idea was to head off malaria when it first invades and transforms within a host’s liver cells, which the parasite needs to do in order to proliferate and move on to the next stage in its life cycle, infecting red blood cells.

March 3, 2019

Frances ArnoldIn the early 1980s, the lab of College biomolecular engineer Harvey Blanch brought together an adventurous group of young researchers and launched them on long and successful careers. One of them, Caltech professor Frances Arnold, has won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discoveries in the directed evolution of enzymes. Arnold is the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry since it was first awarded in 1901.

February 28, 2019

Jennifer DoudnaIn this interview, Doudna argues for caution when contemplating changes to the human genome that could be passed down for generations. She remains a forceful advocate for the potential of CRISPR in basic research, as well as its medical and biotech applications. “I think when you understand how things work, you can apply them more effectively. And once you apply them, you invariably uncover things that you didn’t understand about the fundamental biology of that system,” Doudna said. “I love that kind of interplay.”

February 27, 2019

Jean Fréchet named 2019 King Faisal Prize in Science winnerProfessor Jean M. J. Fréchet, UC Berkeley professor emeritus and Allen Bard, Professor of Chemistry at UT Austin have been named co-Laureates of the 2019 King Faisal Prize in Science. The award, announced on January 13, cites Fréchet's pioneering work and seminal contributions in the areas of convergent synthesis of dendrimers and their applications, chemically amplified photoresists and organic photovoltaics. A ceremony honoring the Laureates will be held in March.

Scientists in the lab of Jay Keasling grow marijuana chemicals using yeast UC Berkeley synthetic biologists have engineered brewer’s yeast to produce marijuana’s main ingredients—mind-altering THC and non-psychoactive CBD—as well as novel cannabinoids not found in the plant itself. Medical research on the more than 100 other chemicals in marijuana has been difficult, because the chemicals occur in tiny quantities, making them hard to extract from the plant. Inexpensive, purer sources—like yeast—could make such studies easier.

February 26, 2019

Undergraduate annual fund student leaders our undergraduate students are raising funds for a peer mentorship and alumni advising program. The campaign goals include: Expand the role of the current Peer Advisors to include tailored peer-to-peer student mentorships; grow the peer-to-peer mentorship program to include alumni and professional affiliates along with the student mentors to help with career advice; and establish a fund to aid in the expansion of support for career networking events, panels, and seminars in order for undergraduates to gain additional business perspectives. Please consider giving generously to this initiative.

February 25, 2019

genetic engineering in plants just got easier and safer New research reported from the lab of Markita Landry announces scientists could make genetically engineering any type of plant—in particular, gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9—simple and quick. To deliver a gene, the researchers grafted it onto a carbon nanotube, which is tiny enough to slip easily through a plant’s tough cell wall. To date, most genetic engineering of plants is done by firing genes into the tissue—a process known as biolistics—or delivering genes via bacteria. Both are successful only a small percentage of the time, which is a major limitation for scientists seeking to create disease - or drought-resistant crops or to engineer plants so they’re more easily converted to biofuels.

February 21, 2019

Daniel NomuraThe Mark Foundation has announced $3.4 million in ASPIRE Awards to support high risk, high reward approaches to solving complex problems in cancer research. Associate Professor Daniel Nomura has received an ASPIRE award for his project Chemoproteomics-Enabled Covalent Ligand Discovery Platforms for Accessing Novel Druggable Modalities.

Staff scientists at Berkeley LabA team at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a new kind of nano scale electron detector that captures all of the information in these interactions. This new tool, a superfast detector was installed on Feb. 12 at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, a nanoscale science user facility where College of Chemistry faculty regularly carry out experiments. The new device will capture more images at a faster rate, revealing atomic-scale details across much larger areas than was possible before.

February 19, 2019

Stephen Leone and Norman Yao, UC BerkeleyProfessors Stephen Leone and Norman Yao have been awarded a $1m science and engineering research grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation. The two scientists will utilize a new technique, ultrafast X-ray spectroscopy, to address important unanswered questions about the formation of non-equilibrium topological phases.

February 15, 2019

Peidong YangEffective January 1, 2019, Peidong Yang assumes the role of Director of the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute (ENSI). “Peidong is a pioneer in nanomaterials and energy related science,” said Kevin Moses, Vice President of Science Programs at The Kavli Foundation. “The Kavli Foundation looks forward to many years of continued excellence in basic nanoscience research at Kavli ENSI and is delighted that Peidong will lead the institute’s impressive membership of world-class scientists.”