Stephen writes:

Dear TwiV Team,

I’m not sure if this news had reached you, so I thought I would share it. Last week renowned Johns Hopkins virologist Richard Johnson passed away at the age of 84. As you probably know, Dr. Johnson made important contributions in the areas of neurovirology and human prion disease, including field work in New Guinea. He also trained the next generation of Hopkins neurovirologists, including Janice Clements and Diane Griffin. Here is a link to the Hopkins announcement of his death.




Steen writes:

I enjoyed the discussion of Cpf1 etc.—ask and ye shall receive!

Another big name in the CRISPR credit discussion is George Church, whose group published on editing back-to-back in Science with Zhang’s group. Fortunately Church does not mind being a bit farther from the limelight: “The whole patent battle is silly. There has been much research. And if anybody should be making a fuss about this I should be making a fuss. But I am not doing that, because I don’t think it matters.”

Quoted in a nice piece by Specter:…

Church’s lab has also done cool stuff on respecifying codons genome-wide for phage resistance, and possibly other uses.

Another fun quote, from Doudna, regarding Jill Banfield convincing her to work on CRISPR: “I remember thinking this is probably the most obscure thing I ever worked on.” Further underscores the importance of curiosity-driven fundamental research.…

One of the many new uses of the CRISPR-Cas9 system is to target DNA viruses for disease resistance in plants. Open access perspective on three recent papers:…

Christopher writes:

Hi TWiV team,

Thanks for a great podcast…keep up the good work !

Regarding the ‘new’ hepegivirus….could this merely be a recombinant virus that developed following co-infection of a cell with both hepaci- and pegiviruses ?


Christopher Ring

Senior Lecturer in Microbiology

Middlesex University London, UK.

Yi-An writes:

Dear Dr. Racaniello, Dr. Dove and Dr. Spindler,

I have a Masters degree in Cancer Pharmacology and I am a biotech specialist working in a patent law firm in Japan.

I write in to follow up TWiV 365.  In episode 365, Dr. Racaniello and Dr. Dove discussed that the patent issues regarding the CRISPR in E.coli.

In general, the invention defined by claim language has to be novel and inventive. For novelty, the Applicant has to show how the claimed inventions are different from those in the prior arts, such as publication or other patent published before the priority date, in order to overcome the anticipated rejection.

The obvious standard varies from place to place. Take Japanese for example, in order to overcome the obviousness rejection, it is generally required to demonstrate the “unexpected significant effect” in the specification as filed or there is “undue difficulty”  for those skilled in the art to achieve claimed inventions. Those who are interested to know more about the Japanese Practice can refer to this document: , which is also available on the website of the Japanese Patent Office (pages 29 and 33).

In regard, if the prior art shows one enzyme can be used in E.coli, the arguments simply state that no one has ever used this enzyme in human cell is not sufficient. It is required to show why people would not have conceived of applying such an enzyme in human cells.  Some Applicants publicly disclosed their inventions (via paper, poster, press release or the like) before filing the priority documents and those publications became priority-destroying documents.

As Dr. Dove mentioned, a patent is not real until it is challenged in the court and it is expensive and time-consuming for applying and maintaining a patent. If the inventor would like to transfer their inventions with commercial interest to a firm, it is necessary to value the compensation to avoid the controversy in view of Dr. Nakamura, the winner of 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics and the inventor of the blue LED.

 The weather in Kansai area of Japan is 7 degrees Celsius, 64% humidity, 0% percipient, wind 1m/s, chill night.  

Thanks for all the wonderful work and I love TWiV.

Sincerely yours,


Adam writes:

Dear comrades of all things viruses,

In the most recent episode, the question of DVM vs. VMD came up briefly.

My former post-doctoral adviser, Laurence Eisenlohr VMD, PhD, explained this to me when I was in his lab at Thomas Jefferson University. I asked the same question that you did. What is the difference?

It turns out that the vet school at the University of Pennsylvania is the only institution of its kind to award a VMD, which is equivalent to a DVM at other vet schools. I think this came about because the veterinary department was at one time a part of UPenn’s medical school and then later became a separate School of Veterinary Medicine.

In a similar vein, the Penn School of Dental Medicine awards the DMD to its graduating dentists.

Happy Holidays,


Jack writes:

Hi TWiV overlords,

I have done my duty to contribute to the TWiV bump by downloading Vincent’s appearance on “Perfect Your Podcast”. I look forward to finding out how big it was.

Your pick of the week about keyboards reminded me of an open source project that is dedicated to bringing Steno to the masses.

Handwriting: 31 wpm

Average Typist: 40 wpm

Top QWERTY Typist: 120 wpm

Top Dvorak Typist: 140 wpm

Voice Writer: 180 wpm

Average Speech: 200 wpm

Amateur Stenographer: 160-200 wpm

Professional Stenographer: 225-300 wpm

Steno World Record: 360 wpm

The video is worth watching all the way to the end where the presenter does a talk through of how Steno can be used for coding.


Tom writes:

This study has a beautiful graphic that matches animals with their known microbes and draws connections between species with similar microbial crews.  Science News described it as “a social network of species that resembles a vibrant tangle of yarn.”

Trudy writes:

Dear TWiVers,

I would like to suggest a pick of the week, and I really hope it hasn’t been picked yet.  I recently finished reading “Madame Curie”, a biography of Marie Curie written by one of her daughters.  I first heard about this book when Vincent mentioned it on a very early TWiV.  I immediately made a mental note to read it, however, it has taken me a while to get around to it.

Somehow this woman really did it all.  Not only did she excel in her career, but at the same time she also managed to be a loving wife to her husband Pierre, and a loving and involved mother to her two girls.  At least, that’s how her daughter Eve describes her.  

The book describes her struggle with fame and fortune, and how she pretty much gave away all her money. She used a lot of it for her research, but also donated quite a bit to create “radiological cars” which basically provided X-Rays on wheels for those injured during the war.  She also installed 200 radiological rooms in hospitals in Paris, a novelty at the time.  She continuously shied away from fame and once mentioned to a journalist that “in science we must be interested in things, not in persons”.

I disagree with her, and it seems that so does Arturo Casadevall.  Coincidentally, I recently ran across one of his papers in the journal Infection and Immunity.  This paper discusses the importance of familiarizing oneself with the history of science:

When we think about people like Marie and Pierre Curie, it’s easy to assume that their hypotheses were always correct and that their results always materialized miraculously and effortlessly.  I think it’s important to be reminded that this is not the case.  

Casadevall does a great job of it:

“Major events in the history of science are widely known and well documented, although the intellectual and experimental struggle required for discovery may not be as well appreciated…   As any working scientist knows, the process of scientific discovery is messy and often involves dead ends, chance, and being in the right place at the right time.”

“Moreover, scientists who are concerned with only the facts and not the process miss out on the rich human drama of perseverance, serendipity, inventiveness, and conflict that characterizes the history of science.  It is often such details that are most interesting to a nonspecialist, which in turn facilitates teaching, and the engagement of the general public with science.  The omission of the history of discovery from scientific papers may thus serve to perpetuate the barrier between scientists and the public whom they serve and depend on for support.”

Well there you have it.  I have nothing else to add.  

All the best, and keep on TWiVing.


Madame Curie, by Eve Curie (translated by Vincent Sheean) 1938 (originally published 1936; MC died in 1934)

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