Frank Buchholz, Professor for Medical Systems Biology at the TU Dresden Faculty of Medicine Carl Gustav Carus was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant worth EUR 2.4 million for his research in the field of targeted genome surgery based on evolved site-specific recombinases. The team headed by Prof. Buchholz already succeeded in developing a designer recombinase (Brec1) that is capable of specifically removing the provirus from infected cells of most primary HIV-1 isolates found in humans. Now Frank Buchholz’ research is also focusing on various other diseases. “The generation of molecular scalpels, such as the Brec1 recombinase, will change medical practice. Not only HIV patients will likely benefit from this development, but presumably also many other patients. We are about to witness the beginning of the genome surgery era”, predicts the head of the Dresden research group, Prof. Frank Buchholz. In the funded “GenSurge” project, a “genome-editing platform” will be developed which allows efficient and safe DNA modifications without triggering cell intrinsic DNA repair.



With 37 Million HIV-positive people and more than 2 Million new infections annually, HIV remains a major world health challenge. Even though enormous advances have been made in HIV treatment, a complete cure from the disease is still not possible. Indeed, the propagation of the virus in the body can nowadays be held in check through medication, but the provirus remains present in cells of the body.

A team of researchers from the Department of Medical Systems Biology at the TUD as well as the research unit Antiviral Strategies at the HPI in Hamburg employed directed molecular evolution to generate a designer recombinase (Brec1), which can precisely remove the provirus from the majority (>90%) of clinical HIV-1 isolates found in humans.

The team now demonstrated for the first time, that the approach works on cells directly isolated from HIV-1 patients. Importantly, the antiviral effects were accomplished without measurable cytotoxic or genotoxic side effects. Based on these findings, Brec1 represents a promising candidate for possible applications in improved HIV therapies.


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