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Making zinc finger archives


Yen Choo's company: Gendaq
Aaron Klug Scientist
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By this point Yen Choo who's half Chinese and half Greek, his name is actually Evgenios, the Greek, but he can't bear to be called Evgenios, his mother's Greek and as you know... he has an entrepreneurial side... he decided he's going to leave the lab, he could have stayed on, and set up a company to compete with Sangamo because Sangamo had done that. So he did succeed in raising finance and he recruited Michael Moore and... Mark Isalan students, one was a post doc other was a student in the lab and he did, he set up a company at the MRC technology incubator in Mill Hill and he built quite a good... he built a research establishment, it was difficult to raise finance, in the meantime, Sangamo went from strength to strength and they floated, at the peak of the high tech of the dotcom boom, so he floated the company, went public and raised $150 million which would keep the company going for many years. And by this time, he was attracting good people, he'd attracted Carl Pabo to come and work for him. Carl Pabo the crystallographer to become a CEO. I'm not that that was a good choice, he's no longer the CEO because although he's an absolutely marvellous crystallographer, I'm not sure how strong his biological instincts are, but he's very, very efficient and he read books on managerial, managing and all that, rather a bad sign. So what happened is that, to make a short story of it, Sangamo acquired... they bought out the investors in the MRC company which was called Gendaq, 'gen' for gene and 'daq' for Greek 'dactile finger'. It was Gendaq and with them they bought all the MRC patents, the MRC patents were devolved on Sangamo. I'll be talking about transcript technology later on. But this was one of the things where I saw to it that we always patented everything we could. And the MRC held the patents, so the... so what happened was that the... so the libraries we built up of the two times three fingers and three times two fingers were all passed onto Sangamo and the work I'm going to describe. I don't know when I'm going to do this, perhaps after lunch, used our libraries. Originally our Cambridge libraries which went to Gendaq to improve in Gendaq. So I just tell you this episode, why this is important because the work that is now being done in therapeutic applications is being done by this company called Sangamo, but using our know-how and I'm on the scientific advisory board of Sangamo, as was Yen Choo but then he decided to leave and he's now set up yet another company. So those are the connections, but they are part of the story.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: John Finch Ken Holmes

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

Tags: Sangamo Therapeutics, Gendaq, Plasticell, Yen Choo, Michael Moore, Mark Isalan, Carl Pabo

Duration: 3 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008