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SciLifeLab The Svedberg seminar series, John van der Oost

Monday October 17

This seminar is co-organized with the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Uppsala University and with Lennart Philipson Memorial Lecture committee.
Read more about Malin and Lennart Philipson foundation or See a movie about Lennart Philipson

John van der Oost

Wageningen University & Research centre, Netherlands and Thermal Biology Institute in Montana state University, USA

John van der Oost received his Ph.D. in Molecular Cell Biology, from the Free University of Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1989. After post docs in University of Helsinki and EMBL in Heidelberg he returned to the Netherlands and Wageningen University where he has been a professor in Microbiology and Biochemistry since 2005. He is also currently a visiting professor in Thermal Biology Institute in Montana state University USA. Presently he is further a panel member of the european research council and the chair of the board of Molecular Genetics Research for the Netherlands Science Foundation.

CRISPR-Cas – beat the swords into ploughshares

In an effort to improve the world, the prophet Isaiah spoke these legendary words: “Let us beat swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks.” What he could not have imagined was that this statement is not only an inspiration for pacifists among us, but also for microbiologists. In the laboratory of John van der Oost fundamental research on “biological weapons” has recently led to the development of a series of beautiful applications in biotechnology and healthcare.

All organisms that have to cope with virus infections (from humans to bacteria) have armed to protect themselves against their attackers. Because the genetic material of viruses changes very fast, a continuous arms race has resulted in a large number of different defense systems.

Over the past 10 years, the Van der Oost group has elucidated the mode of action of a number of bacterial and anti-virus systems studied. This revealed how bacteria use the CRISPR-Cas system to detect and neutralize viral DNA. Moreover, the CRISPR system has also been re-programmed to specifically attack any target gene.

RNA interference is a sophisticated anti-virus system of plants and animals. Quite surprisingly, the Van der Oost group discovered that the bacterial counterpart has the unique ability to use DNA guides to very specifically target the DNA of invaders. This means that also the bacterial Argonaut has the potential to be used for the targeted adjustment of DNA fragments.

Recently Van der Oost has discovered yet another unique bacterial weapon (CRISPR-Cpf1) that appeared to be a very efficient genome editing tool, e.g. allowing for the repair of genetic disorders in human cells. Hence, the translation of innovations in the life sciences to improve human health perfectly match with the vision of Lennart Philipson. Swords have been adjusted for ploughing!

Host: Anders Virtanen and Ulf Pettersson

Read more about John van der Oost research