Benson Hill’s world-class scientists discover new mechanism for CRISPR technology that detects RNA
ST. LOUIS, MO – Jan. 13, 2023 – A groundbreaking research study by a team that included scientists from Benson Hill, Inc. (NYSE: BHIL, the “Company” or “Benson Hill”), has been published this month in Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary journal, highlighting a new mechanism for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology. The research paper, titled “Cas12a2 elicits abortive infection via RNA-triggered destruction of dsDNA,” discusses the discovery of a new enzymatic capability for CRISPR systems, opening the possibility of using CRISPR in new applications beyond gene editing – including cancer therapeutics, programmable shaping of microbial communities, and counterselection to enhance gene editing.
As part of its work to unlock the genetic diversity of plants, Benson Hill’s team collaborated with members of its Scientific Advisory Board, including university scientists from the U.S. and Germany, to uncover insights and solve a complex biological problem for how CRISPR enzymes work. In doing so, they discovered the underlying biology and a new mechanism for how CRISPR nucleases, specifically Cas12a2, can function. The study concludes that Cas12a2 holds substantial potential for CRISPR technologies as a biotechnological tool.
In a proof-of-principle demonstration, the research team showed that a specific amino acid sequence (SuCas12a2) can be repurposed for RNA detection and potentially expand and enhance the CRISPR-based toolkit. More specifically, the study notes that RNA targeted CRISPR activity could enable programmable killing of multiple cell types.
“At Benson Hill we recognize that it will take an entire community of innovators to solve the challenges of today. This is a great example of us partnering with the broader scientific community to better understand CRISPR technologies,” said Gina Neumann, Senior Scientific Manager, Research and Development at Benson Hill. “It truly takes a diversity of thought and approaches to unlock biology. I’m glad we could partner with fantastic academic collaborators to characterize this new enzymatic capability and lay a foundation for future innovative applications.”
From the early days of Benson Hill, the company has taken a bold approach to learning how genetic diversity can solve problems and create new technologies.
In November 2022 Benson Hill formally endorsed the Framework for Responsible Use of Gene Editing in Agriculture. For Benson Hill, the precision of advanced breeding techniques like gene editing unlocks the opportunity to improve diverse crops and focus on benefits like taste, nutrition, and sustainability to leverage the full power of plants and deliver better food choices to consumers.
The full study can be found online on Nature.com and in the Jan. 4 issue. Please refer to the Nature portfolio for the full study: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05559-3.
About Benson Hill
Benson Hill moves food forward with the CropOS® platform, a cutting-edge food innovation engine that combines data science and machine learning with biology and genetics. Benson Hill empowers innovators to unlock nature’s genetic diversity from plant to plate, with the purpose of creating nutritious, great-tasting food and ingredient options that are both widely accessible and sustainable. More information can be found at bensonhill.com or on Twitter at @bensonhillinc.