In those days we were studying some of the proteins that are responsible for cutting up the pieces of RNA, which are the chemical labels that these proteins use to find other molecules in bacteria. And it was really… I had gone on a small hike with a couple of my lab members up in — I think we were in Muir Woods which is for — those folks that know Northern California probably know Muir Woods — but if you don’t, it’s a beautiful redwood forest that was established many decades ago that really has preserved the beauty of redwood trees here in the Northern California area.
So anyhow, we were up there hiking, and in the course of that hike, we were just kind of chitchatting about various things, not necessarily science, but when I got back from that hike, I was talking with one of the students in the lab, Rachel Haurwitz, who is now a very successful CEO of a company that we founded together.
But in that conversation, we talked about some of the work that we were doing in the lab, and I think for me that was maybe one of the first moments where I started thinking that the work we were doing could be useful as a technology. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about genome editing at that moment, but I was thinking about ways that we could use CRISPR proteins to find pieces of viral DNA and RNA and how we might be able to use that as a research tool. So for me that was in a way the beginning of really thinking about these CRISPR systems both as a curiosity-driven research project but also as a potential source of new technology.