John van der Oost
John van der Oost (born 22 July 1958) is a Dutch microbiologist. He studied molecular biology at the Free University in Amsterdam, where he also obtained his PhD degree in 1989. After that he spent three years abroad, 6 months at Helsinki University (Finland) and 2.5 years at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Heidelberg, Germany). Using a fellowship of the Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW) he returned to the Free University in Amsterdam.
Since 1995 John is leader of the Bacterial Genetics group in the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University. Initially research mainly focussed on discovering unique features of central metabolic pathways in archaea, revealing many novel enzymes and their regulation. In 2005 John van der Oost was appointed Professor, in 2013 he was elected as EMBO member, and in 2017 as member of the Royal Dutch Society for Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The last decade, he established a successful research line on prokaryotic anti-viral defence systems (CRISPR-Cas and Argonaute). This has provided an excellent basis for development of unprecedented genome editing tools that currently find applications in biotechnology and molecular medicine (gene therapy).
Van der Oost is considered a pioneer of the "CRISPR revolution" for his fundamental work on unravelling the mechanism of CRISPR-based immunity in bacteria, paving the way for developing CRISPR-mediated genome editing. In a seminal 2008 paper "Small CRISPR RNAs guide antiviral defense in prokaryotes", Van der Oost and co-workers were the first to demonstrate that CRISPR-Cas system uses an RNA-guided mechanism to specifically target DNA. Moreover, they successfully transplanted the system to another host bacterium, and demonstrated that an appropriately designed CRISPR allowed for specific targeting of any DNA sequence. This first example of programmable gene editing, subsequently developed for the CRISPR-Cas9 system that has been been further used by many research groups for applications ranging from fundamental protein research to revolutionary treatments for diseases including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, and HIV. The CRISPR-Cas research is considered as one of the most significant discoveries in the history of biology.