Using Gene Editing to Cure HIV with Daniel Dornbusch
Viruses are specialists at replicating, something that has frustrated researchers for an HIV cure — until now. With advances in gene editing, the private company Excision BioTherapeutics seems to have developed a functional cure for HIV in animals by removing genomes. Today we speak with Excision CEO Daniel Dornbusch about their breakthrough and why, after decades, gene editing is now attracting significant attention. We open our conversation by talking about what gene editing is, its connections to health science, and how top minds have been experimenting with CRISPR to prevent viral infection. Daniel shares details on his company’s approach to an HIV cure while emphasizing that their research is derived from a community of scientific thought. From CasX to Cas9, we chat about different CRISPR proteins and how each has its abilities and aptitudes. After touching on the challenges of balancing effective gene editing with safety, Daniel provides his insights into why technological leaps have led to an explosion in the gene editing field. We then discuss how gene editing has accelerated the development of a Covid-19 vaccine before we ask Daniel for his take on the controversial 2018 story, when scientists allegedly edited the genes of babies. Near the end of the episode, we talk about other approaches to curing HIV and Daniel leaves us with a final message. Tune in to hear more about the exciting application of gene editing and what Daniel has done to push for an HIV cure.
(Daniel: “I should have thanked our collaborators at Temple University, Dartmouth College and UC Berkeley for their innovations and tireless work over the years.”)
Key Points From This Episode:
- We share the career highlights of Daniel Dornbusch, today’s guest.
- Leading theories on the origin of HIV and why the disease is still worth discussing.
- What gene editing is and its connections to health science.
- Harnessing the power of CRISPR to edit genes and to avoid viral infections.
- The differences between curing and treating viruses.
- Developing a functional cure for HIV in animals by removing genomes.
- Hear the details of how Daniel’s HIV curative treatment works.
- Why Daniel’s company is focused on specifically curing HIV.
- Exploring the different types of CRISPR proteins.
- Balancing efficacy with safety in both drugs and gene editing.
- Why gene editing is starting to take off.
- How gene editing has accelerated the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
- Why vaccine trials move so slowly; the human body is complex and safety is paramount.
- Commercializing gene editing and how viruses’ natural characteristics have frustrated generations of gene editors — until now.