Gene editing companies denounce Nature report devaluing effectiveness of CRISPR/Cas9.
In response to a paper published by Nature Methods that criticized CRISPR/Cas9 as dangerous, two gene-editing companies have taken a stand to demonstrate the paper’s inaccuracies and restore the damage it has caused.
Scientists from Intellia Therapeutics and Editas Medicine have sent letters to Nature Methods stating the negativity caused by the report (entitled “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR/Cas9 editing in vivo”) will cause a significant setback to initiating CRISPR/Cas9 studies in humans.
CEO of Intellia Nessan Bermingham went so far as to appeal that the findings be recalled and its findings deleted from scientific record.
“This publication has garnered a significant level of media and public attention resulting in significant damage. Given the issues around the design and interpretation I believe it is appropriate that the Nature Methods editorial board retract this paper.”
Publisher of Nature Methods, Springer Nature, said that they had already received other complains about the paper and are now in discussion with its authors regarding the discrepancy. Both authors, Vinit Majhajan of Stanford University and Alexander Bassuck of the University of Iowa, denied an immediate response.
The resulting stock market crash of Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics after the paper was published was the main reason for the backlash, which had raised more than $1 billion in funds prior to Nature Methods publication.
George Church, a professor from Harvard University and scientific cofounder and shareholder of Editas, was one of 11 other company scientists that signed a letter agreeing that the experiments disclosed in the Nature publication are unsubstantiated.
The fear that CRISPR/Cas9 could potentially be dangerous is not unfounded, however. Fifteen years ago, pioneers of gene editing came under fire when unwanted gene changes caused cancer in some children. But that was based on old methods of gene editing, and CRISPR/Cas9 has too much to offer to be dismissed so lightly.
Intellia added that the authors did not perform the CRISPR/Cas9 experiments properly according to what’s already been clearly established, a statement supported by Jennifer Doudna, co-discoverer of CRISPR/Cas9 and molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.