CRISPR is easily one of the most popular tools in modern biology. Since its introduction in 2012, CRISPR-based publications have increased about 30 fold. With NIH funding for CRISPR-related projects per year crossing a billion dollars in 2020, it is safe to assume that more and more researchers will adopt CRISPR in their projects in the coming years.

Given that CRISPR has been around less than a decade, researchers have had to learn it on-the-go while trying to maintain the pace of their research. This is no small feat. The CRISPR workflow is a complex machine; every tiny component has to work perfectly for the machine to run smoothly. A small mistake in any of the multiple steps in a CRISPR experiment could cost months of wasted time and resources.

We wanted to understand the expertise, experience, and attitude of CRISPR researchers towards the experiments.

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The Methodology

To find answers to these pressing questions, a blind online survey through various third-party life science publications that cater to a scientific audience is conducted by Synthego. The survey contained 36 questions covering researchers’ challenges, applications, success levels, and satisfaction levels around the CRISPR workflow.

The CRISPR Benchmark Report highlights the informative trends that emerged from the survey.

The CRISPR workflow is a complex machine; every tiny component has to work perfectly for the machine to run smoothly.

The Goal

A successful experiment requires several considerations around guide design, cell type optimization, and transfection method. Yet, researchers have to balance complicated CRISPR workflows in the lab while managing their project goals and deadlines. We wanted to dig into this paradoxical situation by getting an inside look at what’s happening with CRISPR in today’s lab. The following were our main objectives for conducting the survey.

Know the Researchers

Information around respondents’ professional backgrounds, areas of interest, years of expertise, and type of CRISPR editing helped us ensure that we collected unbiased data spread out over diverse educational and research labs.

Understand the Challenges

That CRISPR is tedious is common information, but we wanted to dig into specifics: how much time do researchers invest in each step of the experiment, what parts do they find challenging, and what results do they get in the end.

Uncover the Perceptions

Given that researchers are inclined to invest in a CRISPR experiment, despite the heavy lifting, we were curious if they found the ordeal worth it. The last part of the survey queried the satisfaction levels of researchers around their CRISPR results.

Only 15% of CRISPR researchers are very satisfied with their results.

The Findings

Finding 1: CRISPR Research is Diverse

We found that CRISPR researchers worked in diverse applications & research areas. Interestingly, irrespective of the type of research, knockouts emerged as the most popular editing method.

Finding 2: Do-It-Yourself CRISPR is Hard

It became clear from the data that DIY CRISPR is hard. Researchers need 7 attempts, on average, before they succeed, and especially struggle with the optimization step. Even when they do get an edit, they report a sub-optimal average editing efficiency of 43%.

Finding 3: Researchers Are Not Satisfied with Results

With average editing efficiency ranging at 43%, it came as no surprise that only 15% of CRISPR researchers are very satisfied with their results. Researchers also fall short of their ideal goals; they report the desire to study 17 gene targets in parallel, but end up studying just 7 targets.

Researchers spend about 472 hours of hands-on time and $18,394 of total costs on performing a CRISPR experiment in their lab.

The True Costs of CRISPR

Our calculations, based on the survey data inputs, showed that the overall time and monetary investment in CRISPR are quite high. Researchers may not realize the financial burden of 7 repeats and low editing efficiencies, but our calculations show that researchers spend about 472 hours of hands-on time and $18,394 in total costs on performing a CRISPR experiment in their lab.

See how you compare! Synthego has created a CRISPR Calculator where you can play around with the experimental conditions to calculate the cost of your own CRISPR experiment.

Download the Full Report

If you found these highlights interesting, you will love the full report. In our CRISPR Benchmark Report, we dive into the data from our survey findings and discuss their implications in CRISPR labs. We uncover the reasons why researchers find CRISPR hard and dig into their perception of success.

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