Derek Jantz, PhD, is the co-founder and CSO of Precision BioSciences and a 15-year veteran of the genome editing industry. As a protein engineer, he was an early developer of zinc finger technology and has spent most of his career designing proteins for genome editing applications. He performed his graduate studies in biophysics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Jantz co-founded Precision BioSciences in 2006 after co-inventing a novel method to modify the DNA-recognition properties of meganucleases. Read his full bio.

Interview with Derek Jantz of Precision BioSciences

Q: What need is Precision BioSciences addressing?

A: Precision’s ARCUS genome editing technology is a proprietary, non-CRIPSR platform that has applications across cell therapy, gene therapy, and agriculture. We are able to edit everything from plants to primates, so prioritizing projects is an imporant part of what we do. In agriculture, we are focused on enhancing nutritional value and fortifying at-risk crops. In medicine, we are developing ex vivo gene edited cell therapies that fight cancer as well as in vivo gene editing therapies targeted to the liver and the eye.

Q: What are the products and/or services Precision BioSciences offers/develops to address this need? What makes Precision BioSciences unique?

A: Our lead product is an off-the-shelf CD19 CAR T to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This is made from the T cells of healthy donors, which we edit in two ways – first, we add a receptor that targets cancerous cells and second, we knock out a receptor that mediates graph-versus-host interactions to eliminate the need for donor-patient matching. Using this method, we can generate hundreds of vials of CAR T cells from a single manufacturing run to treat patients when and where they need it. Another even newer area of genetic medicine we are excited about is in vivo therapeutic genome editing. Because the ARCUS editing platform works effectively and reproducibly in non-human primates and other large animal models, we can look beyond basic mouse studies and begin using editing to therapeutically suppress or correct expression in models that inform the development of human therapeutics.

Q: What is your role at Precision BioSciences and what excites you about your work?

A: I am the CSO of Precision BioSciences and also a co-founder, along with Matt Kane (our CEO) and Jeff Smith (our CTO). We started the company back in 2006, soon after Jeff and I created the earliest version of ARCUS, but I’d already been working in genome editing for almost 10 years by then. I have studied and worked with zinc finger nucleases, TALENs, and CRISPRs, but have always preferred the homing endonuclease (aka meganuclease), which ARCUS is based on, for therapeutic applications. The time and effort our team at Precision has put into this platform has been nothing short of heroic, and now we are seeing the pay off as we progress toward clinic in both cell and gene therapy.

Q: When thinking about Precision BioSciences and the domain Precision BioSciences is working in, what are some of the recent breakthroughs that are propelling the field forward and how will they impact healthcare?

A: The field has made real headway into editing human cells in vitro, particularly for CAR T. Several new gene edited CAR T therapies are either in the clinic or expected to enter the clinic within the next year. In vivo therapeutic editing isn’t quite as far along but there are a couple of ZFN-based therapies in very early clinical studies. We recently published a study in collaboration with the Wilson lab at Penn demonstrating, I think for the first time, high-efficiency, long-term in vivo editing in primate liver. We knocked-out the PCSK9 gene in several animals, resulting in therapeutically-relevant reductions in LDL cholesterol that are stable now well into the second year of the study. We think the study provides a blueprint for developing additional liver-targeted in vivo editing therapies using the ARCUS platform.

Q: What are the short-term challenges that Precision BioSciences and its peers are facing?

A: For the field at large, translating our success from the bench to the bedside has been challenging. Gene editing has revolutionized biomedical research, but creating bona fide in vivo therapies is a big ask and the place everyone in this space would like to go. This means creating new medicines able to cure disease by editing patient DNA at the organ or tissue of interest, preferably with a single treatment. It’s the “holy grail” of genome editing and what I have been working toward my whole career. We’re close but we aren’t there yet. The transition to large animal models – getting beyond mouse work – is a crucial step toward bringing these therapies to the clinic. And as the first wave of ex vivo edited cell therapies enter clinical trials we will gain a greater understanding of what safety risks, if any, are posed by gene editing. This, in turn, should help to clarify the regulatory path for the subsequent wave of in vivo therapeutics.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: How soon and how completely genome editing will reshape the future of medicine are still big questions, but I am more and more confident this will happen sooner and with a bigger impact than many appreciate. As a scientist and as a person, I could not be happier to have made this my life’s work.

Interview with Andrew Carroll of Google AI

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: I believe that applying AI technologies in healthcare will make physicians more valuable, and will make their careers more enjoyable and sustainable.

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Interview with L. Staton Noel III of Panaceutics

Q: What need is Panaceutics addressing?

A: One of the key barriers to making precision/personalized wellness and healthcare products is the contradictory goal of manufacturing individualized products on a large scale. Meeting demand for personalized products can be expensive and logistically challenging.

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Interview with Joe Zhang of Burning Rock Dx

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend?

A: The milestones in my mind include the first FDA clearance of Next Gen Sequencing instrument, MiSeqDx in 2013, this opened a new door for clinical utilization of parallel gene alteration detection in clinical setting.

Read More

Why are Scientists So Upset About The First CRISPR Babies?

The use of new technologies can provide breakthrough benefits for both patients and providers. However, with increased sharing comes increased risks to the security and privacy of patient data. Currently data is being accumulated across many organizations and initiatives but is often either siloed or simply not accessible. Researchers suggest that patient education tactics can help quell security concerns during patient data sharing.

Read More

Interview with Kara Davis of Stanford

Q: The Nobel Price in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” What is your first-hand experience the impact that those new drugs had on patients?

A: These immune checkpoint inhibitors have been an incredible demonstration of the ability of the immune system to control and in some cases.

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Interview with Shannon J. McCall of Duke University

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend?

A: After several years of the promise of precision medicine and abundant clinical trial work, the recent FDA approval of solid-tumor-agnostic therapies dependent on molecular biomarkers has catapulted genomic/precision medicine into the standard-of-care for late stage cancer.

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Interview with Tao Chen of Paragon Genomics, Inc.

Q: Once sequencing has been validated as a clinical solution via trusted workflows, and coinciding with the technological developments driving costs lower, we can expect accelerated human genome profiling for clinical Dx. How soon, do you think, will we see accelerated growth and what can we expect?

A: For whole genome sequencing to be a reliable clinical tool, it will largely depend on the cost of sequencing the genome and our ability to interpret the data.

Read More

Call for Action: The Time is Now for Patient Data Interoperability

The use of new technologies can provide breakthrough benefits for both patients and providers. However, with increased sharing comes increased risks to the security and privacy of patient data. Currently data is being accumulated across many organizations and initiatives but is often either siloed or simply not accessible. Researchers suggest that patient education tactics can help quell security concerns during patient data sharing.

Read More

Interview with Andrew Magis of Arivale

Q: Once sequencing has been validated as a clinical solution via trusted workflows, and coinciding with the technological developments driving costs lower, we can expect accelerated human genome profiling. How soon, do you think, will we see what kind of accelerated growth?

A: I think the acceleration has already begun. Large sequencing projects such as NHLBI Trans-omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) and NIH All of Us are sequencing 150,000 and 1 million individuals, respectively.

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Interview with Emily Leproust of Twist Bioscience

Q: NGS is enhancing patient care through improved diagnostic sensitivity and more precise therapeutic targeting. Prominent examples include cystic fibrosis and cancer. What other clinical areas NGS will most likely to change the standard-of-care in the near future?

A: Preventative medicine – using genetic data to identify traits that have the potential to cause harm in the future.

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Interview with Michael Phelps of UCLA

Q: You invented the PET scanner that changed the lives of millions of patients with cancer, brain and heart diseases. What are the potential benefits to patients of combining PET with radio-ablation technologies?

A: PET provides imaging assays of the biology of disease in many diseases today.

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Interview with Daniela Ushizima of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: I really hope that human physicians will not be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future.

Read More

Interview with Amy Compton-Phillips of Providence St. Joseph Health

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend? What technological advancements are driving this change?

A: Genomic medicine is poised to move quickly from the research realm into integration with healthcare delivery, but there is always a time lapse between technology advances and what we do with those advances.

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Interview with James Taylor of Precision NanoSystems

Q: There are various new, emerging technologies that bring us closer towards a cure for life-threatening disorders such as cancer, HIV, or Huntington’s disease. Prominent examples include the popular gene editing tool CRISPR or new and improved cell and gene therapies. By when can we expect these new technologies being part of routine clinical care?

A: Patients are already receiving treatment using novel gene and cell therapies.

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Interview with Julie Eggington of Center for Genomic Interpretation

Q: Together with Robert Burton you founded the Center for Genomic Interpretation (CGI), a non-profit organization. Can you tell us more about CGI and the mission behind it?

A: CGI’s mission is to drive quality in clinical genetics and genomics. CGI works primarily with laboratories, health insurance payers, clinicians, and patients/consumers.

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Johns Hopkins
University Of Michigan

The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC), in its 16th installment, will take place in the Santa Clara Convention Center (Silicon Valley) on January 20-23, 2019. The program will traverse innovative technologies, thriving initiatives, and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advancements in precision medicine and cutting-edge new strategies and solutions that are changing how patients are treated.

Agenda highlights:

  • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • AI & Data Science Showcase
    • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
    • Clinical Dx Showcase
    • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
    • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
    • Digital Phenotyping
    • Diversity in Precision Medicine
    • Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Early Days of Life Sequencing
    • Emerging Technologies in PM
    • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
    • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
    • Gene Editing
    • Genomic Profiling Showcase
    • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
    • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
    • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Microbial Profiling Showcase
    • Microbiome
    • Neoantigens
    • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
    • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
    • Pharmacogenomics
    • Point-of Care Dx Platform
    • Precision Public Health
    • Rare Disease Diagnosis
    • Resilience
    • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
    • Wellness and Aging Showcase

Agenda highlights:

    • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
      • AI & Data Science Showcase
      • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
      • Clinical Dx Showcase
      • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
      • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
      • Digital Phenotyping
      • Diversity in Precision Medicine
      • Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Early Days of Life Sequencing
      • Emerging Technologies in PM
      • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
      • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
      • Gene Editing / CRISPR
      • Genomic Profiling Showcase
      • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
      • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
      • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Microbial Profiling Showcase
      • Microbiome
      • Neoantigens
      • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
      • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
      • Pharmacogenomics
      • Point-of Care Dx Platform
      • Precision Public Health
      • Rare Disease Diagnosis
      • Resilience
      • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
      • Wellness and Aging Showcase
  • Luminary and Pioneer Awards, honoring individuals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the field of Precision Medicine
  • 2000+ multidisciplinary attendees, from across the entire spectrum of healthcare, representing different types of companies, technologies, and medical centers with leadership roles in precision medicine
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