Alexis C. Komor

  • Age
  • Title
    Professor of chemistry and biochemistry
  • Company
    University of California, San Diego

Komor quietly made history a few years ago. A chemistry postdoc who arrived in the lab of Harvard’s David Liu not long after discovery of Crispr, the breakthrough gene-editing technology, Komor figured out how to edit DNA in a new, still more precise way—down to a single base unit (or letter) in the DNA sequence. Revolutionary as it is, Crispr, which is often described as a molecular scissors, is a crude editing tool. Komor modified the technology, turning it into a “base editor”—capable of replacing a single cytosine base (C) in the DNA sequence with a thymine base (T)—that Liu compares to a pencil and eraser. That’s significant because a number of human diseases are caused by point mutations in which there is a single letter out of sequence. Komor’s base editor had the potential to fix some of those mutations. Komor’s work has given rise to a flourishing scientific field. She inspired her colleague Nicole Gaudelli (see blurb) to develop a second base editor that could turn an adenine base into a guanine base (A to G). The technology Komor and Gaudelli invented became the basis of Beam Therapeutics, which is working to develop treatments for human diseases using base editors. The company had its IPO in February and has a market cap of $1.3 billion. Others are developing different base editors, too. Komor was a consultant for Beam for two years while establishing her own independent lab at the University of California San Diego.

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