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Dr Quentin Ferry completed his DPhil with Associate Prof Tudor Fulga (NDCLS-WIMM), employing RNA-engineering to develop novel inducible CRISPR/Cas9 systems, whose activity can be conditioned on genetically encoded, or externally delivered, triggers. He was awarded the Prize for developing and applying new methods in genome editing, which promise to progress the field.

Quentin.pngI had my first contact with scientific research while interning at the Cerebral Imagery and Neurologic Handicap Laboratory (INSERM U825) during the summer of 2011. Working alongside Dr Pierre Celsis and Dr Florent Aubry, I studied cerebral connectivity and cortical atrophy in neurodegenerative diseases and developed a software suite to investigate the use of DTI-MRI data for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

After obtaining an engineering degree from the Ecole Centrale de Nantes (France), I completed an MSc in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Oxford with a specialization in image analysis. For my thesis, co-supervised by Prof Andrew Zisserman (Oxford robots) and Dr Christoffer Nellåker (MRC FGU), I applied the latest computer vision and machine learning methods to automate the diagnosis of rare genetic disorders based on facial phenotypes (Elife 2014).

In 2013, I was fortunate to be awarded a 4-year Wellcome Trust scholarship and joined the laboratory of Associate Prof Tudor Fulga, to work in the fields of genome engineering and synthetic biology. My work there revolved around the CRISPR/Cas9 system, which I used both as a programmable transcription factor and a pair of molecular scissors. 

Throughout my DPhil project, I employed RNA-engineering to develop novel inducible CRISPR/Cas9 systems, whose activity can be conditioned on genetically encoded, or externally delivered triggers. In the ensuing publication, I demonstrate that this conceptual framework can be used to easily reprogram CRISPR-based transcription factors for the assembly and temporal control of gene circuits implementing parallel and orthogonal regulation of multiple target genes in human cells (Nature Comm. 2017a).

In parallel, I have collaborated with postdoctoral scientist Qianxin Wu to develop GenERA, a CRISPR/Cas9-based platform to delineate RNA cis-regulatory elements and assess their regulatory potential (Nature Comm. 2017b). We notably used this innovative platform to investigate the regulation of native microRNA target networks, dissect the entire posttranscriptional regulatory landscape encoded within a candidate 3’UTR, and analyze at near-single nucleotide resolution the sequence determinants underlying the functionality of microRNA response elements.

It has been a true privilege to be part of the vibrant scientific community fostered by the Radcliffe Department of Medicine. I am particularly grateful for all the training, support, and facilities that were provided during my DPhil at the MRC WIMM, as well as Prof Fulga’s mentorship.