My cells are infected!!

That phrase was uttered for the first time this week and we had a smile on our face when we said it. How could it be good? This week marks the first production of virus in the brand new Genetic and Viral Engineering Facility here in Monterotondo. The first virus, an rAAV (recombinant adeno-associated virus) carrying a very special cargo will be used for some new experiments we are very excited about. Stay tuned for updates. But what is this new facility, why do we have it and what does it offer?

With the use of CRISPR to engineer mouse embryos increasing, the need for “traditional” transgenic vectors may be decreasing. A point could be coming where a researcher can design a long single-strand oligonucleotide, order it with a click, and the transgenic team can produce the desired mouse in fairly short order. We are not there yet but we want to be forward thinking. Phil Avner, Head of the unit, other group leaders and I have been discussing this for some time and have been determining how we could put my genetic engineering skills to best. At the same time, interest in using viruses to modify cells, either in vitro or in vivo has increased. Thus, Phil approached me with the idea of adding viral engineering and production to my facility. Thus, on 1 April the “Genome Engineering Services” in Monterotondo ceased to exist and the “Genetic and Viral Engineering Facility” became a reality.

As before, the Genetic and Viral Engineering Facility (GAVEF) will continue to offer design and generation of complex genetic engineering vectors for any organism. We are not eliminating any of our services. For some experiments, the desired construct cannot be made without a combination of recombineering, Gibson assembly, and good old fashioned cloning. This genetic engineering toolkit will now also be used in engineering viruses. As of this now, we are producing rAAV. We also are currently equipping a new BSL2 cell culture facility that will be used to produce lentiviral and HSV vectors in the coming months. Engineering of other viruses may be added depending on demand. Other future services may include genetic engineering of somatic cell lines. Are you interested in our services? They are available to all but of course special pricing and priority service is available only to EMBL researchers. If you are in need of our service, contact me at:

Author: sawitzke

Head of Genetic and Viral Engineering Facility. Member of EMBL staff since June 2015. Expertise includes: genetic engineering, molecular biology, bacterial genetics, CRISPR and viral engineering and production. Longtime staff scientist with Don Court developing recombineering after postdoc with Stuart Austin at National Cancer Institute, USA. PhD with Frank Stahl at University of Oregon 1993. Avid home-brewer for 26 years. Beer judge since 2008 and currently the highest ranked BJCP beer judge in Europe.

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