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University of Alicante Professor Francis Mojica receives an honorary degree at Menéndez Pelayo International University



Alicante. Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The discoverer of the CRISPR-Cas technique (genome editing tool) and professor of the University of Alicante Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology Francis Mojica, has been named Doctor Honoris Causa by the Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP).  The ceremony took place on 24 August 2018 in La Magdalena Auditorium and was presided over by UIMP President Emilio Lora-Tamayo, accompanied by this university's governing team.

The person in charge of reading the laudatio was the UIMP honorary president, César Nombela, who assured, quoting the words of Sir Hans Krebs, that "to investigate is to see what everyone can see, but to think what nobody has thought before, and this is the case of our guest's observations". Experimental Biology, “which has plenty of artisan work" according to Nombela, "has made a progress thanks to the biological phenomenology thought and reflection" Not in vain was Mojica the person responsible for deciphering the keys to the phenomenon, which he himself gave it a name, CRISPR-Cas, acronym in English for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. The newly appointed honorary Doctor managed to demonstrate that these gene sequences were transcribed in highly processed RNA molecules, which gave us an idea of the biological relevance of these phenomena.

Later, as Nombela recalled, Mojica could understand the function of these sequences present in the genomes of bacteria, archaea and mitochondria, since they already provided an immunity system against viruses. Thus, CRISPR in association with Cas nuclease gave rise to a special RNA capable of finding a target in DNA and modifying the genes of that region.

"There are so few cases in which the specificity of recognition between molecules has become so adaptable to such a general use that it still continues to amaze us" UIMP honoray president stated. It is so much so that "thousands of research groups in the world today use this system every day, both to learn about new phenomena and to develop treatments or modified organisms," he added.

Next, Mojica, in his speech of gratitude, on CRISPR Curiosity, Reasoning, Research, Serendipity and Progress, explained that the "CRISPR technology" is a diverse set of Molecular Biology tools that "has changed Biology, Agriculture, Biotechnology and Medicine forever." As proof of this, "right now an article on this topic is being published every two hours," University of Alicante professor said.

Also, the newly appointed Doctor Honoris Causa described in detail some of the CRISPR genome editing tool applications: genomes have been edited in "many animals, including mammals; it has contributed to reduce hanger in light of possible scenarios in a couple of decades "and the possibility of editing DNA in laboratory animals with the aim of studying, preventing and curing diseases has been worked on." As he added, thanks to CRISPR editing tool, we know the causes of many infectious diseases nowadays. In this sense, Mojica stressed that "a few months ago an incredible molecular diagnostic method was developed which can detect the presence of the Zika virus or the dengue virus at a cost of between one and two euros."

As for the applications of CRISPR, the UA researcher recalled that European justice has determined that the organisms modified with this tool should be treated as transgenics; to which the professor limited himself to describing this decision as "absurd" and recalled the words of Isaac Asimov: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom” Thus, he pointed out that CRISPR is a defence system invented by prokaryotes about 3000 or 4000 years ago and "thanks to curiosity and reasoning, with a certain dose of serendipity commonly linked to all scientific activity, a handful of us researchers have discovered this wonder of nature and we turn it into an arsenal of tools that is contributing to the progress at an amazing speed ".

In concluding his speech, the new honorary member acknowledged that he was "tremendously proud to be part of the scientific community" and thanked the UIMP for granting this "great honour", as well as his family and friends "for always helping". The University of Alicante professor of the Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology also remembered the words of Louis Pasteur:

"Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.  Science is the soul of the prosperity of peoples and the living source of all progress.”.

The following authorities were attending the awarding ceremony: Delegate of the Government in Cantabria Pablo Zuloaga; University of Cantabria Vice President for PhD Programmes and Institutional Relations Alberto Ruiz Jimeno; UC Vice President for Research and Knowledge Transfer Javier León Serrano; former UC President José Miguel Ortiz Melón; UC Faculty of Medicine Department of Molecular Biology Professor of Microbiology Juan María García Lobo and researcher of the Cantabria Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology Dolores Lucía Guzmán, among other attendees. Source: UIMP 2018


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