Could CRISPR Be Used as a Targeted Virus-Killer?—Brainstorm Health

Happy Friday, readers.

New research from the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard carries a tantalizing proposition: CRISPR gene-editing could be used to home in on, and destroy, deadly infectious viruses in human cells.

Published in the journal Molecular Cell, the study finds that CRISPR-Cas13 (this is distinct from CRISPR-Cas9—a more precise enzyme that can be better targeted to snip out aberrant genetic code) could be used as a virus-fighting entity with potential implications for treating everything from flu to Zika.

The system, called CARVER (or, for the nerds, Cas13-Assisted Restriction of Viral Expression and Readout) could potentially serve as both a diagnostic and a therapy.

“Human viral pathogens are extremely diverse and constantly adapting to their environment, even within a single species of virus, which underscores both the challenge and need for flexible antiviral platforms,” said study co-lead Pardis Sabeti, according to

“Our work establishes CARVER as a powerful and rapidly programmable diagnostic and antiviral technology for a wide variety of these viruses.”

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy,


The Apple Watch is getting the Medicare Advantage treatment. The Apple Watch is coming to a Medicare Advantage plan near you. Medicare Advantage—the private component of the nation's public health plan for the elderly—now has at least one member, Devoted Health, which offer a discounted price (up to a $150 credit) for health tech like the Apple Watch. "We are thrilled to be the first Medicare Advantage plan to collaborate with Apple, and give our members the chance to use their Devoted Health Wellness bucks towards purchasing an Apple Watch," said the company in a statement. (9to5Mac)


A pause on OxyContin lawsuits? A New York bankruptcy judge suggests that the rash of lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma may benefit from, well, slowing down. The judge, according to Reuters, signaled his support for a six-month hiatus on some two-dozen states' litigation against Purdue as the company wrangles with thousands of separate suits. (Reuters)


Scott Gottlieb: It's time to address the gap between federal and state marijuana laws. Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that one of the most effective methods of cracking down on vaping illnesses may be bringing state and federal marijuana laws into sync. Gottlieb points to the prevalence of THC pods (many of which are off-market and inconsistently regulated) in the recent spate of vaping-related illnesses. "Exerting partial oversight over the riskiest products would effectively signal the end of federal marijuana prohibition. Justice officials see such a step as politically controversial, even as it becomes clear that a blanket ban is no longer politically practicable," writes Gottlieb. (Wall Street Journal)


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