George Church, PhD: The Future of Genomic Innovation & Precision Medicine; CPMI Conference, April 5, 2022

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George Church, PhD

Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Director,

George M. Church, PhD ’84, is professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School; a founding member of the Wyss Institute; and director of, the world’s only open access information on human genomic, environmental, and trait data. Church is known for pioneering the fields of personal genomics and synthetic biology. He developed the first methods for the first genome sequence and dramatic cost reductions since then (down from $3 billion to $600), contributing to nearly all “next-generation sequencing” methods and companies. His team invented CRISPR for human stem cell genome editing and other synthetic biology technologies and applications—including new ways to create organs for transplantation, gene therapies for aging reversal, and gene drives to eliminate Lyme disease and malaria. Church is director of IARPA and NIH BRAIN Projects and National Institutes of Health Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. He has co-authored more than 590 papers and 155 patent publications, and one book, Regenesis. His honors include Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science, the Time 100, and election to the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

Affordable Precision Medicine via Somatic and Germline Genome Editing


The cost of reading and writing DNA has dropped over 30 million-fold recently. The cost of therapies and prevention has, in contrast, generally gone up. The exceptions are in categories with large markets, like vaccines and age-related diseases, which affect nearly all of us ($2 rather than $2M/dose). For rare diseases, well-tested precision diagnostics can be applied preventatively, at low expense, with essentially zero consequences of false positives (but adoption has been slow). Multiplex germline editing seems the best route for organ transplants, and preclinical trials in primates and patients have already begun. Multi-virus resistant cell therapies (or bioproduction) might play a role in improving the cost-effectiveness and safety on this last category.