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Several chemical, physical, and biological techniques have been used for delivering macromolecules into living cells. Delivery of biomolecules into living cells is essential for biomedical research and drug development as well as genome editing. However, conventional methods of delivery of biomolecules such as viral vectors, cell penetrating peptides, cationic lipids, positive charged polymers, bulk electroporation, and microinjection pose several challenges. Such challenges include safety concerns, toxicity, damage to the cells, limited loading capacity, low delivery efficiencies, low cell viabilities, low cell throughput, high cellular perturbation, and high costs.  Thus, there is a need for delivery devices and methods that allow for permeabilization of the cell membrane to facilitate delivery of biomolecules into cells.   UC Berkeley researchers have developed a universal delivery electroporation system that makes cell transfection very simple for all of types of cells. The technology can be used to replace conventional cellular delivery methods such as cationic lipid, positive charged polymer and bulk electroporation as well as microinjection.  The system can deliver biomolecules (e.g., DNA, RNA, proteins, nucleic acid-protein complexes (e.g., RNPs)) or other reagents into all cell types, including T-cells, which cannot be efficiently transfected with conventional approaches.  

Method And Kits For Identifying Treatment Targets Of Cancer

Tumorigenesis is a multistep process involving genetic alteration and gene expression deregulation in cells. Over the past few decades, targeted therapies hold hope for the treatment of many types of cancer. A common complication is that cancer drugs eventually stop working owing to the tumor heterogeneity and the genetic complexity of the tumor. Previous studies using pharmacological, RNA interference or CRISPR-mediated screens have enabled target identification, however, many targets genes cannot be further validated in vivo due to the lack of understanding of their corresponding signaling and gene network or there is biased selection due to over emphasis on particular phenotypes such as growth or depletion of cancer cells.    UC Berkeley researchers have developed a platform using molecular feature recognition and CRISPR-based target interrogation, in order to explore gene regulatory networks for new drug target identification and validation.  One aspect of the technology relates to a method for identifying treatment targets relating to tumors. 

Lentivirus-like Particle Delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 & Guide RNA for Gene Editing

CRISPR-Cas9 is revolutionizing the field of gene editing and genome engineering. Efficient methods for delivering CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing components into target cells must be developed, both for ex vivo and in vivo applications. Current delivery strategies have drawbacks: genetically encoding Cas9 into viruses (ex. adeno-associated virus, adenovirus, retrovirus) leads to prolonged Cas9 expression in target cells, thus increasing the likelihood for off-target gene editing events. This problem can be mitigated by complexing ribonucleoprotein (RNP) Cas9 and guide RNA (gRNA) in vitro prior to administration – however, additional strategies for trafficking RNPs into target cells must additionally be employed.    To address this challenge, UC Berkeley researchers have discovered lentivirus-like particles that deliver Cas9/gRNA RNP complexes into target cells with high efficiency. This delivery strategy combines the ability of viruses to deliver cargo intracellularly with the transient nature of Cas9 RNP complexes. 

Enhanced Speed Polymerases For Sanger Sequencing

Sanger sequencing has remained a dominant DNA sequencing methodology for molecular biology research and development for many years.  The main commercially available DNA polymerase developed for Sanger sequencing has a slow extension speed and has difficulties sequencing secondary structures such as GC rich regions, hairpins, mono- and poly-nucleotide repeats.  While specialized plastics and reductions in reaction volumes to improve Sanger sequencing reaction times, any gains in sequencing assay performance (e.g., sequencing time or throughput) are offset by increased costs associated with a terminator reagent.  During the last two decades, further refinement and advancement of suitable DNA polymerases to improve polymerization speeds during Sanger sequencing have been limited.  Thus, there remains a need for improved DNA polymerases suitable for Sanger sequencing that possess enhanced elongation speeds, and the ability to sequence through secondary structures present in DNA templates.    A UC Berkeley researchers has discovered compositions and methods for preparing and using Taq DNA polymerases with improved Sanger sequencing elongation sequencing rates as compared to commercially available Sanger sequencing reagents.  

Integrated Nanocrescent Optical Antenna System (iNOAS) for Rapid Precision Molecular Diagnostics

UC Researchers have developed a hexagonally packed nanocrescent optical antenna array for real-time ultrafast photonic PCR, which can avoid the problem of quenching fluorescent probes by applying well-matched resonance oscillation of electrons instead of random photothermal heating. Matching the plasmon resonance with NIR diode and the design of integrated nanocrescent optical antenna on chip allows effective plasmonic conversion of the light to heat drastically. It improves not only time consuming thermal cycling step, but also real­time PCR detection due to amplified signals without the excessive heating problem of fluorescent molecules. 

A Protein Inhibitor Of Cas9

  Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR)/Cas9 nucleases, when complexed with a guide RNA, effect genome editing in a sequence-specific manner. RNA-guided Cas9 has proven to be a versatile tool for genome engineering in multiple cell types and organisms.  There is a need in the art for additional compositions and methods for controlling genome editing activity of CRISPR/Cas9.   UC Berkeley researchers have discovered a new protein that is able to inhibit the Cas9 protein from Staphyloccocus aureus (SauCas9). SauCas9 is smaller than the frequently used Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes, which has a number of benefits for delivery. The inhibitor is a small protein from a phage and is capable of strongly inhibiting gene editing in human cells.

Topical Anti-proliferative Agents for Melanoma

Due to the year-to-year increase in skin cancer incidences and dramatic decrease in survival, once the melanoma has metastasized, a preventative treatment for skin cancer would be significant. Currently, the only defenses against melanoma are applying sun protection factor (SPF) regularly and protecting oneself from direct sun exposure. In a 2015 national survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 34% of adults reported using SPF 15 or higher and 35% of adults reported having a sunburn in the past year.    UC Berkeley researchers have discovered active antiproliferative compounds that can be applied post-sunburn to prevent the growth and metastases of melanoma and therefore, could reduce the number of melanoma incidences per year. Based on preliminary data, they are developing a compound cocktail composed of active lead compounds to develop an anti-proliferative and cytostatic topical treatment of melanoma to slow down tumor development. 

Cas12-mediated DNA Detection Reporter Molecules

Class 2 CRISPR-Cas systems are streamlined versions in which a single Cas protein (an effector protein, e.g., a type V Cas effector protein such as Cpf1) bound to RNA is responsible for binding to and cleavage of a targeted sequence. The programmable nature of these minimal systems has facilitated their use as a versatile technology that continues to revolutionize the field of genome manipulation.    Cas12 is an RNA-guided protein that binds and cuts any matching DNA sequence. Binding of the Cas12-CRISPR RNA (crRNA) complex to a matching single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) or double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) molecule activates the protein to non-specifically degrade any ssDNA in trans. Cas12a-dependent target binding can be coupled to a reporter molecule to provide a direct readout for DNA detection within a sample.  UC Berkeley researchers have developed compositions, systems, and kits having labeled single stranded reporter DNA molecules that provide a sensitive readout for detection of a target DNA.