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K-State Today

November 28, 2018

Electrical and computer engineering hosts seminar speaker Gregory Finnigan

Submitted by Michelle Keating

Greg Finnigan

Electrical and computer engineering will host Gregory Finnigan, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at K-State, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, in 1109 Engineering Hall.  

Finnigan will present "CRISPR/Cas gene drives in budding yeast: novel designs, biosafety, and applications for population control."

Abstract: Since the discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing biotechnology, an entire division of applications has developed around this system within molecular research, medicine and agriculture. One powerful application is the control of biological populations through the use of nuclease-based "gene drives." This genetic system allows the rapid propagation of a genetic element through a population and could be used to eradicate invasive species, agricultural pests, or insect-borne diseases such as malaria. However, many challenges still exist in the design, testing, and implementation of this technology. Given the nature of the gene drive system, computational models to study population dynamics provide a useful platform to examine issues such as evolved resistance, fitness costs, and inhibitory or reversal mechanisms. Here, we focus on several aspects of CRISPR gene drives in a computational model that may provide self-regulating mechanisms to significantly slow or reverse the spread within a native population without any anti-drive system. These include the overall success rate (double stranded break formation and repair via homologous recombination) of the gene drive system per generation, the fitness associated with the gene drive-containing individuals, and an inducible system to shift the gene drive success rate after an initial release point. Our findings highlight various combinations where the time (generations) required for the gene drive to reach fixation can be modulated given initial parameters and drive design. This type of "tunable" system could provide additional safety mechanisms for initial field testing, dynamic control of populations, or allow for the implementation of additional safeguards such as anti-drives or other counter-measures.

Finnigan received his bachelor's degree in general biology at Gonzaga University in 2005 and his doctorate in molecular biology, University of Oregon in 2011, Tom Steven's Lab. He received a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, Jeremy Thorner's Lab from 2012-2016, and has been an assistant professor at K-State since 2016.