2018 Lorne Genome Conference

Assistant Professor Kevin Esvelt

CRISPR Driven Evolution

Kevin received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 2010 for his invention of Phage-Assisted Continuous Evolution (PACE), a synthetic microbial ecosystem for rapidly evolving biomolecules, in the laboratory of David R. Liu.  His work there was enabled and generously supported by fellowships from the Hertz Foundation and the National Science Foundation.  PACE was recognized by the Harold M. Weintraub Award and the Hertz Foundation Doctoral Thesis Prize.  

At the Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School, he developed several key technologies that utilize the RNA-guided CRISPR/Cas9 nuclease for genome engineering and regulation in collaboration with George Church's laboratory.  The most notable of these is the RNA-guided CRISPR gene drive, which may allow us to deliberately alter the traits of wild populations.  It will eventually merge the the fields of molecular biology and ecological engineering.   

At the MIT Media Lab, the Sculpting Evolution group explores evolutionary and ecological engineering and responsive science.  We investigate the fundamental parameters governing molecular evolution, uncover new ways of controlling bacterial fitness and horizontal gene transfer, develop safeguards and model systems for evaluating CRISPR gene drive elements, collaborate with groups developing gene drive interventions, and advocate for a new model of responsive science.  Broadly speaking, we seek to learn enough to rectify a fundamental flaw in our universe: evolution has no moral compass.

Our work is currently supported by the MIT Media Lab, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the National Institutes of Health (through a K99-R00 award from NIDDK), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  We are very grateful for both public and private support and pledge to use it wisely

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