Herbert A. Sober Lectureship

Carroll acknowledged for his work
on genome editing with targetable nucleases

Dana Carroll

This award has special meaning for me because Herb Sober was a family friend as I was growing up. In addition to people in my laboratory and my collaborators, I am grateful to the many researchers around the world who have taken the basic targeting technology, improved it and applied it in ways I had not imagined. It’s been a lot of fun.


Dana Carroll, professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, has won the 2014 Herbert A. Sober Lectureship award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Carroll, whose early scientific interests were in the physical sciences, won the Sober lectureship for developing the use of zinc-finger nucleases as reagents for making site-specific double-strand breaks in the chromosomes of living cells. These reagents have allowed researchers to make targeted genome modifications in a wide range of organisms.
“Gene-targeting procedures have been available for fungi and for mouse (embryonic stem) cells for many years, but the absolute frequencies of targeted modification were low, and the approaches were not applicable to other organisms,” says Carroll’s colleague Martin Rechsteiner. “Carroll’s insight was that the genomic target is essentially inert for recombination and that double-strand breaks in the target DNA will substantially stimulate the process. He then sought DNA cleavage reagents that could cut at specific, but arbitrarily chosen, sites.”
Carroll first showed the ability of zinc finger nucleases to make germline modifications in the Drosophila melanogaster genome, and his lab generated targeted mutagenesis and gene replacement in the germline in more than 10 percent of cases in this organism. The lab also has used this approach in nematodes, plants and silkworms. Other nucleases that target the genome have been developed based on this approach, and this technology is being used to target genes for deletion and modification in a number of organisms.
In a 2010 interview with the corporate publication Biowire, Carroll stated, “People can now contemplate making very specific mutations in their genes of interest, which was only previously possible in yeast and some simple organisms, and in mice. With ZFN technology, this targeting capability is available for lots of different organisms. So that’s been a big change for geneticists, but the field is still expanding. The number of applications is still increasing as we learn more about how we can use them.”
Indeed, phase I clinical trials are under way using ZFNs as a treatment for HIV, and preclinical studies using these procedures to treat animal models of human diseases have proved successful, indicating that there is potential for this technology to be used for gene therapy.
“It is my opinion that textbooks of biochemistry and molecular biology will place Dr. Carroll’s development of zinc finger nucleases as tools for genome editing alongside Sal Luria’s and Ham Smith’s work on restriction namely in the class of fundamental discoveries that have indelibly altered academic, industrial and medical biotechnology,” says Philip D. Gregory, chief scientific officer and vice president for research at Sangamo BioSciences Inc.
Carroll earned his bachelor’s degree at Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. He also completed postdoctoral stints at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research and at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Carroll, who has received a number of awards and accolades over his career, including the 2012 Notitski Prize from the Genetics Society of America and an American Cancer Society Scholar in Research Award, will receive his Sober award from the ASBMB during the Experimental Biology 2014 conference in San Diego. His award lecture will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 30, in Room 6A of the San Diego Convention Center.

Kyeorda KempKyeorda Kemp (kkemp134@gmail.com) will be starting as an assistant professor of biology at Northeastern State University in the fall.