scroll to top arrow or icon

CRISPR gets an AI upgrade

DNA Helix.

DNA Helix.

IMAGO/Alexander Limbach via Reuters Connect

CRISPR, the gene-editing method that won two female scientists the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, may soon get infused with artificial intelligence. One Northern California startup called Profluent is expected to present its new paper at a gene-editing conference next month, which describes its work using AI to analyze biological data and create new gene-editing systems.

As one professor explained to the New York Times, it’s a departure from how CRISPR typically does gene replacement. Instead of altering genes based on discoveries in nature, the startup instead uses novel methods surfaced by its AI. “They have never existed on Earth,” University of California, San Francisco professor James Fraser said. “The system has learned from nature to create them, but they are new.”

Gene-editing is rife with ethical quandaries, such as questions around modifying human embryos, which could be exacerbated by the rise of AI. Still, CRISPR provides hope: it could provide cures to countless diseases and is already providing innovative new treatments for sickle-cell anemia.

Profluent also chose to open-source one of its gene editors, OpenCRISPR-1, though the underlying AI will stay under wraps, the company said.


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter