This is part 2 of our look at CRISPR gene editing technology. See Part 1 here.
Today, we take a look behind the scenes at how CRISPR-Cas9 was developed, and the lessons we can learn for innovation in our own companies.
This is a SAMPLE of the full episode, which is exclusively available for members of Graeme Codrington’s Futures Club. You can sign up for the club and access the full version here, right now.
* The TomorrowToday Full Blown Innovation Model
Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday, this is just a sample of the full-length episode that is for Graeme Codrington’s Futures Club members only. If you’d like to access the full-length episode and get other resources in the Futures Club, please check out the show notes for a sign-up link. We’d love to have you as part of the club. Otherwise, enjoy this sample.
Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday, my name is Graeme Codrington, and join me as we jump into the future and see what’s going on there.
I’m picking up a story from last week, we talked about CRISPR clustered, regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats that occur in your DNA in every cell of your body and is a technology that won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020. And what it allows us to do is to edit DNA. We can edit DNA in food and plants, in animals, and of course, in ourselves, in human beings. And this is going to give us remarkable, remarkable improvements in medicine, in agriculture, and in everything to do with health and healthy living.
There are some ethical concerns and moral issues that we’re going to have to deal with, and I’m sure that there are going to be people who will abuse this system, and so we’re going to have to have all of those conversations as well. But now you’re up to speed If you didn’t watch last week’s video.
What I want to do this week, and you know by now that in season three of Throw Forward Thursday, every second week we go behind the scenes of the technology or the future trend that we looked at, and we take our thinking like a futurist lens, and we say what is there to learn from this particular case study?
And in this case, I want to take you into the world of the two doctors who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020, Jennifer Doudna, who is an American, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is French. And these two ladies developed, they took technology, or they took a medical understanding of CRISPR that was already in place. Way back in 1987, a Japanese doctor discovered CRISPR in Japan, and a number of other people discovered it in other places, including a guy who was trying to make better yoghurt, fantastic, and all discovered CRISPR in a variety of different ways. And then DRS. Doudna and Charpentier pulled that together with their Cas9 methodology of editing.
So, it’s one thing to understand that you can see these repeating patterns in the DNA of a cell. It’s another thing to know that you can use those repeating patterns as a method for actually editing the cells. What happened, though, I think, is something we can all learn from. You see, in a video that I will put into the show notes, Jennifer Doudna talks about what she was doing in her lab. She had seen CRISPR technology, she had understood that this data that we were getting from DNA strands, especially the DNA of bacteria, was fascinating. So there was a pattern in the data, there was something to the data that indicated that there was something to be known. It’s like sort of vagueish, if you like. And so as she describes it, she sort of knew there was something to go and investigate there and she started looking.
Then they hypothesised, they said if this is sort of true, if this makes sense, then maybe using CRISPR we would be able to understand how bacteria engage with RNA and when a cell is being attacked, how the cell learns from the attack and then evolves to protect itself from that attack. This happens in your body every day in terms of how you fight off sickness and so on. But they were looking at a cellular level and I don’t know the details, so I won’t go into the details. If you want the details, the video is in the show notes for you.
But she had an idea and so they began to experiment with that idea and then they discovered not only was their idea correct, but as soon as they understood the mechanism of how it worked. So, they knew that something was working, but they didn’t know how it was working, and once they discovered how it was working, 100 different applications suddenly emerged.
This is often how science works. I’m reminded, for example, of the CERN collider that is built in Switzerland, the Hadron Collider, that’s this massive underground tunnel, doughnut-shaped kilometres and kilometres of doughnut-shaped tunnel, where they send one particle speeding around and crash it into another particle, looking for these subatomic particles, the Higgs boson in particular. They knew it had to be there, we call it dark matter and dark energy and so on, but they knew something had to be there. There was this hypothesis and then they go and they build a machine big enough to actually experiment with it.
In the first experiment, they prove it exists, but now they can go beyond just knowing that it exists to understanding how it works and then suddenly realising, well, now that we know how it works, we can now use this technology and suddenly then the applications emerge. Okay, so what? Graeme, you’re a nice big science nerd and you love all of this stuff, but so what for you? Well, I think there’s a huge so what here. I do a lot of work with companies that are looking for innovation. In fact, I can’t think of any of my clients who don’t have innovation as one of their core visions, or their core mission statements at the moment.
Innovation is in fact, in many companies, an underlying value, that’s how much it is desired and how much companies are looking for it. But too many companies are not getting the innovation that they want because what they are doing is they are stopping their innovation by either only improving what they’ve already got, which is not horrible, but there’s a limit because it’s just improving what you’ve already got, or only innovating when they can imagine a return on investment-based outcome.
Now, if you’re a member of my Futures Club, please make sure that you log into the Futures Club portal and get the rest of this video where I unpack what we need to be doing rather than making these innovation mistakes. I think there are a few things that we can learn from the CRISPR methodology about how we can improve innovation in your company and your team.
If you’re not a member of my Futures Club, this is the end of the video for you, and you will need to join the Futures Club to get access to the Premium Edition and the rest of this video. I hope this has been valuable for you anyway, and I hope that you check out the Futures Club. We’ve tried to price it in a way that there’s something to fit every budget, and if you don’t like what you see, we’ll give you your money back, It’s risk-free. So have a look at the link. You’ll find the link in the show notes as well, come and have a look and see what we’re doing in the Futures Club.
Otherwise, I’ll see you next week in the Future in Throw Forward Thursday.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.