Signature Highlight 2: John van der Oost

Signature; bacterial immunity and genome editing

Fast and convenient genome editing of micro-organisms, crops, or even human cells, is within reach due to the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas system. Key to this application has been the biochemical characterization of this bacterial immune system that provides protection against foreign DNA. This was initiated by the pioneering work in the group of Prof John van der Oost and also involved Stan Brouns, who received his cum laude PhD degree in 2007, by showing the impact of CRISPR-Cas on bacteriophage infections

Powerful tool

Molecular details of the CRISPR-Cas system were studied by Edze Westra, who got his PhD cum laude degree in 2013. An alternative, the Argonaute system, was further developed by, among others, Daan Swarts, who got his PhD cum laude in 2015. A new thermophilic CRISPR-Cas genome-editing tool was developed with Richard van Kranenburg, who was appointed in 2016 as Special Professor focusing on bacterial-cell factories. A completely new multi-functional, CRISPR-Cas effector-complex, termed Cpf1, was recently discovered by Prof. Van der Oost. The Cpf1 system has several unique features that make it a powerful and efficient tool for genome editing of cells.