Biosafety of GMOs and genome editing

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/associated protein 9 (Cas9) (CRISPR/Cas9) is the most recent and popular modern biotechnology method for genome editing. The CRISPR/Cas9 technology is more targeted, precise, and efficient than the conventional tools for making changes to the genomes of different organisms. If applied in a safe and sustainable manner, CRISPR/Cas9 can introduce innovations essential to advance food production, human health, and animal welfare.

Alongside the rapid development and increased use of CRISPR/Cas9, it is also important to take the biosafety of the technology into consideration. More knowledge about biosafety and sustainable use of CRISPR/Cas9 will increase public and regulatory acceptance of the technology.

The focus of the Genome Editing Group is to identify and provide solutions to biosafety issues (such as off-target mutations and how this may impact the organism) arising from the use of CRISPR/Cas9. Further, we are interested in elucidating how mutations due to CRISPR/Cas9 can be differentiated from other types of mutations in the genome. This knowledge will be highly relevant for identification, monitoring and surveillance of gene-edited products.

In addition, we emphasize stakeholder and public participation as part of the projects in order to integrate Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in the applications of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

Current projects in the group include:

IRSA: using the infectious disease of Atlantic salmon as a model, this project aims to create new knowledge about gene-editing, enabling the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to be used in a responsible manner.

FoodPrint: Traceability and labelling of gene-edited products in the food chain. The FOODPRINT project develops research on gene-editing detection in the context of traceability and labelling of genetically modified (GM) products throughout the food chain. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway

GMOmics: This project is about the application of omics technologies to investigate potential unintended metabolic alterations in genetically modified/edited plants and for elaboration of their relevance for GMO risk assessment. The project is externally funded.

SynPlast: This research project aims at understanding three biological aspects of CRISPR-edited plant cells: 1) efficiency and functioning of CRISPR system in plants; 2) potential off-target mutations and metabolic disturbances; 3) potential biosafety concerns related to metabolic changes