The Israel Innovation Authority’s Technology Infrastructure Research Committee has approved the establishment of the CRISPR-IL consortium, with a total funding of 36 million shekels for a period of 18 months (with an option to extend operations for an additional 18 months). The consortium, which is part of the Authority’s overall Bio-convergence program, will be comprised of various companies and academic groups, will focus on the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and CRISPR technologies to develop advanced computational tools for genome editing.
This consortium is part of the Innovation Authority’s Bio-convergence Initiative, with an innovative approach integrating biology with engineering, AI, physics, computation, nanotechnology, material science and advanced genetic engineering to address unmet needs in health and other industries, such as agriculture and energy.
The CRISPR consortium includes companies from the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, bioinformatics and fish farming. They will be partnering with leading scientists from research institutes including: Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ben Gurion University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC). Research groups from the Sheba and Schneider Medical Centers will also be taking part in the consortium.
The new consortium will harness advanced AI technologies to develop computational tools which can improve the accuracy and efficiency of genome editing and enable swift and effective implementation of these tools in industry and research. The field of genome editing – technologies capable of enacting changes in genetic material – has gained tremendous momentum with the discovery of the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technological system, which holds significant potential for advancing genetic research, with numerous applications in the life sciences.
CRISPR is a genome-editing technology for detecting and modifying DNA sequences. It is used as a tool to enable genetic changes. The technology has enormous potential in fields such as medicine and agriculture. Among its potential uses: the development of advanced and personalized medical treatments, the treatment of genes which contribute to diseases, improving the quality of agricultural produce, shortening the time required to develop new products and cutting the cost of development. According to estimates1, by 2025 the market for products based on CRISPR technologies will amount to approximately $500 billion.
However, broad-based application of the technology still needs to overcome significant obstacles. Existing tools for genome editing have limited efficiency and accuracy, which could lead to undesirable changes to the genome, with significant economic and safety mplications. To perform efficient and precise editing, it is essential to identify the target area of the genome with absolute precision, prepare the methods required to perform the specific editing, and predict the results in advance. These are the precisely the challenges members of the CRISPR-IL consortium will be taking on.
Aharon Aharon, CEO of Israel Innovation Authority, said in a statement: “The CRISPR-IL consortium will enable Israeli industry to be at the forefront of genome editing worldwide, while recruiting leading scientists and deploying innovative technologies developed in Israel. The consortium will bring companies from a variety of fields as well as research groups under its wing, which will together develop advanced technological solutions that are expected to have an impact on medicine and agriculture.”
Tel Aviv University (TAU) – Prof. Itay Mayrose, Prof. Tamir Tuller, Dr. David Burstein
Ben Gurion University (BGU) – Prof. Amir Sagi, Dr. Isana Veksler-Lublinsky
Bar Ilan University – Dr. Ayal Hendel
Hebrew University – Dr. Oren Parnas
Weizmann Institute of Science – Prof. Avraham Levy, Prof. Asaph Aharoni
Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) – Prof. Zohar Yakhini
Schneider Medical Center – Prof. Shai Izraeli
Sheba Medical Center – Dr. Michal Besser