From the Director Spring 2017 Issue 41

From the Director

Robert Desimone, Director of the McGovern Institute. Photo: Kent Dayton
Robert Desimone, Director of the McGovern Institute. Photo: Kent Dayton

Our work at the McGovern Institute has benefited greatly from our ties to the Broad Institute, which lies just across the street from our own building. The Broad is a world-leading center for human genome research, with a major focus on the genetics of brain disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism. It is also a hotbed of technology innovation, and as you can read in this issue, the technologies that we are jointly developing promise to change our view of the brain, allowing us to identify and map its myriad cell types on a scale far greater than previously possible.

The impact of new technologies often extends beyond the original purpose, a point that is powerfully illustrated by a recent study from Feng Zhang, whose work on CRISPR and gene editing has implications far beyond neuroscience. Now, Zhang and his colleagues at the Broad Institute have described an entirely new application of CRISPR, for the detection of rare DNA sequences from Zika virus or other pathogens in clinical samples. This method, which they call “SHERLOCK,” holds great promise as a new diagnostic tool, with potential applications ranging from cancer detection to the monitoring of infectious disease. Because it can be delivered as a paper-based test, SHERLOCK may be especially useful in places where access to laboratory facilities is limited — an important factor for monitoring emerging diseases such as Zika virus.

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