Steward of the Future: Rodolphe Barrangou

A DNA cutting technology has changed the world of genetic studies, advancing food and agriculture, biotechnology and medical industries. In this short video, Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou discusses the CRISPR technology used in his lab in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

What Dr. Barrangou has to say:
“I’m an associate professor at NC State in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences within the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences. I run the CRISPR lab.

“So CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and, together with associated sequences called cas genes, CRISPR-associated genes, constitute the CRISPR-Cas immune system. This is an immune system in bacteria that is arguably equivalent to the adaptive immune system in mammals and vertebrates, except it’s DNA-encoded, RNA-mediated, sequence-specific targeting.

“And what CRISPR is, is a fancy system that allows you to selectively cut double-stranded DNA, selectively, specifically, efficiently and affordably. And it has changed the world of genetic studies and genome editing, specifically, with huge implications across three different types of industries: One is the biotechnology industry, obviously. Another one is food and ag and the development of strains and organisms of interest for the ag industry, going all the way up the supply chain.

“And last but not least, translational medicine and the genesis of disease model systems for human applications and also gene therapy to correct flawed genes in human cells.

“It’s really giving rise to technology that is really going to make a difference in the real world. And industrially we’ve seen that happen already, and if you use yogurt, if you consume yogurt or cheese on a daily basis or regular basis, it’s happened already. You have used a CRISPR-enhanced product; you have consumed a CRISPR-enhanced product. And that’s a role of a land-grant institution like NC State — to really make a difference for the industry and consumers on a very large, broad scale.

“But beyond this for biotechnology and translational medicine, we’ve seen promise recently in the CRISPR literature with people being able to excise inserted HIV-1 viruses out of human cells or be able to rewrite and edit genome sequences that are implicated in liver cancer or DMD, Duchene’s muscular dystrophy, whereby you are able to go into a genome and really change the content of the genome to make it right and correct it.

“In closing, clearly CRISPR is a very compelling topic. Now is the right time, and NC State and our lab is the right place: We have the right team. And it’s providing tremendous business opportunities and actual deliverables that are pertinent to different industries, and as we’ve seen from VCs (venture capitalists) and large companies, it is a very sound investment.

“It has happened already. The question is how far will people take the technology and how creative will people be in their use of CRISPR. And only the future will tell how far they can go and how fast they will get there.”

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