Stanford University

Genome Editing and Gene Drives at Stanford

Last updated: December 18, 2018
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How to Use

Multiple technologies exist to create permanent genomic modifications in in vitro cell culture and in vivo animal research models. Methodologies include, but are not limited to, Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases (TALENS), Zinc Finger Nuclease mediated DNA repair (ZNF), Meganucleases, and CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)1. These technologies can be used to create gene drives, a modification of an organism’s genome resulting in a more efficient spread of a trait through the population as compared to Mendelian inheritance2. The Vice Provost and Dean of Research, on the recommendation of the Administrative Panel on Biosafety (APB), has established the following policy in order to protect the health of Stanford researchers and the environment.

Experiments that require APB Approval

Human Clinical Studies

Study protocols that include either direct gene modification or the administration of donor cells that have been genetically modified must be filed with both the APB and the Administrative Panel on Human Subjects Research (IRB).

Basic Research Studies (In Vitro and In Vivo)

Usage of genome editing tools (e.g. CRISPR/Cas9) delivered via viral vectors. In addition to the non-exempt viral vectors (see Biosafety Manual), this would include Adeno Associated Viral vectors (AAV) if the target sequence is human. For systems that target non-human genes, a genome target scan of the gRNA sequence is highly recommended to identify the possibility of off-target effects on the human genome in order assess the risks. The RGen CasOFF Finder is an example of a tool where you can perform a scan.

Usage of a gene drive (via viral or non-viral delivery methods) with invertebrate and vertebrate animals and on plants. In addition to the description of the planned experiments and safety of the delivery mechanism, the APB protocol must also address the following containment guidelines2.

  • Molecular containment: Will the guide RNA and the nuclease be located in separate loci?? Will a synthetic target sequence be used that is absent from the wild type target organism?
  • Ecological Containment: Will the experiments be performed outside the habitable range of the target organism?
  • Reproductive Containment: Will a laboratory isolate/organism be utilized that cannot reproduce with wild type organisms?
  • Barrier Containment: What physical and chemical barriers will be used to contain the target organisms and prevent their release into the environment?

Genome editing tools (delivered via viral or non-viral delivery methods) used to:

  • Modify an infectious agent to increase host range, transmissibility, or pathogenicity of that particular agent.
  • Modify the host to increase its susceptibility to an infectious agent.
  • Express a toxin with a low LD50 (≤100 ng/kg) in the genome of both in vitro and in vivo research models.

Exempt Experiments

Use of non-viral methods (e.g. plasmid transfection) to create genomic insertions, point mutations, and deletions in somatic cells in vitro or in vivo. The insertions can be recombinant DNAs that express oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes however, expression of a low LD50 toxin (≤100 ug/kg) using a non-viral method still requires APB approval.

Questions? Please contact the Biosafety and Biosecurity program at 725-1472,


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