CRISPR Online Educational Resources

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Phenomics Australia provides a national centre of expertise and service provision to deploy CRISPR for increased speed, efficiency, and decreased cost for the production of animal strains carrying targeted mutations while maintaining the expertise for traditional transgenic technologies. To meet the high demand for this platform, Phenomics Australia offers genome editing services through four nodes across Australia, operating at Monash, ANU, WEHI, and SAHMRI.

The Melbourne Advanced Genome Editing Center (MAGEC), led by Prof Marco Herold at WEHI is one of four CRISPR nodes within Phenomics Australia, which uses CRISPR/Cas9 techniques to generate genome engineered mice and which regularly communicates and exchanges ideas and reagents with the other nodes.

Dr Martin Pal was part of MAGEC’s team, applying CRISPR/Cas9-technology for disease modelling and research into cell death and blood cancers. Back in 2020 when COVID first hit, Martin, joined WEHI’s Education Team in a secondment position and provided his highly skilled expertise in the creation of this CRISPR101 learning resource. This CRISPR101 learning resource, presented to you by WEHI’s Education team, is a great example of a team effort ensuring researchers have access to cutting-edge national research expertise and infrastructure.

Dr Martin Pal

I am a lecturer and scientist using CRISPR genome editing to mimic and study diseases, including metabolic disorders and cancer. I’m also consulting other researchers on gene editing experiments and I’m building a growing portfolio of online educational resources, such as CRISPR 101. 

My scientific career using genome editing tools started during my PhD at the Institute for Genetics at the University of Cologne, Germany. We were developing our own genetic model system to investigate the origins of obesity-associated insulin resistance. As CRISPR wasn’t discovered yet as a genome editing tool, we used other laborious techniques that are also highlighted in CRISPR 101. So in some ways, my own scientific journey is aligned with the rise of CRISPR technology. After my PhD, I moved to Australia for my postdoc and my journey here took me over multiple medical research institutes to MAGEC. Joining MAGEC brought me back to the passion I developed during my PhD which is developing genetic model systems to mimic and study human disease. While I remain Honorary Research Associate at WEHI and closely connected to MAGEC, I have since taken up a position as Lecturer with Charles Sturt University where I continue to apply CRISPR technology for research into novel therapeutic targets and follow my passion as a science educator. 

CRISPR 101 Online Course

Check how CRISPR works and how it would benefit your research on this CRISPR 101 Online Course

Research focus at MAGEC

At MAGEC I was able to integrate my genetic and molecular skills while at the same time supporting the scientific community. At MAGEC we generated hundreds of genetic model systems to study health and disease using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. These genetic models have been extensively used by researchers in Australia, but also worldwide. I also enjoyed working on technology development and contributing to our lab’s research centred around the role of apoptosis (a form of cell death) in cancer development.

Interest in educational resources

We consistently have lots of students coming through the lab. I always enjoy engaging with them, and this really sparked my passion for knowledge transfer and teaching the next generation of scientists.

Back in 2020 when COVID first hit, an opportunity presented itself to join WEHI’s Education Team in a secondment position. Marco, as supportive as he ever is, encouraged me to take it up and so I moved from bench to desk for the rest of 2020.

This new role was completely different from lab work, but I enjoyed supporting the students of the institutes through COVID and developing professional development and researcher skills programs.  Again, fortunately for me, Keely realised my strength in CRISPR technology and wondered if I could develop a resource centred around this now-famous genome editing technology that was widely used at WEHI. And so, the idea of CRISPR 101 was born.

Experience developing the CRISPR resource

Developing this novel online learning course was a very rewarding and fulfilling journey. There are surprisingly many similarities between my work as a lab-based scientist and being a scientific educator. The freedom of creativity is the thread that connects these various endeavours. Along those lines, one of the things I enjoyed the most when developing CRISPR 101 was researching the content of the resource and to arrange it all in a logical sequence. However, and I’m sure Keely will agree with me when I say that in the beginning, we underestimated what it means to generate CRISPR 101. We started off putting content together but quickly realised it would take us much longer than we thought. One of the biggest challenges was our goal of creating something that the wider community would benefit from. Working on the language of the course and toning down scientific jargon was a difficult task but also one of the best learning experiences I have had so far. I’m very proud of CRISPR 101 and think the course will be valuable for a wide range of audiences, including scientists wanting to learn more about genome editing and CRISPR, but also High-school students, and anyone in the community with an interest in science.

The future outlook for educational resources

One of the aims we had when setting out was to make scientific and medical research more approachable for the community. We use a lot of fancy techniques in science, and often they are very abstract and difficult to comprehend when you are not an expert in it. Therefore, we wanted to break it all down and present CRISPR technology from its beginnings and origins towards all the myriad of applications it is being used today by genome engineers. I think we are just at the beginning of fully embracing wholly online digital technologies, and it is very exciting to develop new educational content. WEHI is already generating similar resources to showcase complex biomolecular technologies used in medical research, and novel, innovative online learning courses are a fantastic way of creating a bridge between scientists in the lab and members of the community.

With an established track record and reputation for excellence, Phenomics Australia Genome Engineering team uses techniques such as CRISPR-mediated mutagenesis, classical gene targeting, and transgenesis to create optimal tools for your research delivering a comprehensive service in genome modification. Phenomics Australia continues to develop and expand mutagenesis capabilities through in-house research and development, information exchange between service nodes, other CRISPR practitioners, and thorough literature review, thereby establishing a national community of practice for genome engineering technologies and applications. With our collective experience and expertise in a wide variety of projects, Phenomics Australia can assist in the production of genetically modified animal models using mice, rats, and rabbits. By providing a leading capability to make genetic associations with disease, Phenomics Australia makes the cost of investigating pathways associated with disease affordable.

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