The evolutionary arms race between viruses and prokaryotes has resulted in the evolution and diversification of innate and adaptive bacterial defence systems against viruses such as bacteriophages. Prokaryotes have devised a tremendous diversity in their counter-attack strategies against plasmids or viruses spanning from the first line of defence (restriction/modification, prokaryote argonautes) to adaptive immunity. The CRISPR-Cas (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats-Cas) is a prokaryotic adaptive immune system consisting in the acquisition of foreign genetic elements (spacers) in a CRISPR array followed by a transcription of the CRISPR RNA and complexing to an effector surveillance complex for DNA/RNA interference. CRISPR systems are of particular interest for their programmable single effector nucleases that have enabled their use as a versatile and precise tool for genome engineering and nucleic acid detection.
Using a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach employing computational biology, microbiology, RNA biology, biochemistry and protein engineering, our laboratory aims to unlock the mechanisms underlying antiviral defence in bacteria. We harness our fundamental discoveries to develop the next generation of CRISPR tools for molecular diagnostics and safe and efficient gene therapy. For example, our laboratory is heavily invested in curing rare genetic diseases in kids such as type 1 and type 2 neurofibromatosis in close collaboration with the Children Medical Research Institute (CMRI) and the Children’s Cancer Institute at Sydney using our newly discovered CRISPR tools. We are developing CRISPR-based molecular diagnostic tools to detect RNA and DNA molecules. These CRISPR tools will serve for detecting infectious diseases, specific mutations in cancer and beyond.
Enquiries are welcome from potential Honours or PhD students. A variety of projects are available within all of the areas of research undertaken by the gene-editing group. Please contact us.