Ning Jia

2020 Regional Award Winner — Post-Doc

Ning Jia

Current Position:
Assistant Professor

Southern University of Science & Technology, China (Previously, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)

Biochemistry & Structural Biology

Recognized for: Unlocking key biological mechanisms that govern the function of enzymes—proteins responsible for the synthesis of important molecules in our body—and CRISPR-Cas systems, such as those used in gene-editing. These efforts have provided scientists with an enhanced understanding of the functions of individual atoms in biological molecules.

2020 Regional Awards Chemistry Honorees

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: CRISPR-Cas, Structural Biology, Biochemistry, Crystallography

Previous Positions:

BS, Ocean University of China, China
PhD, University of Science and Technology of China, China (Advisor: Cong-Zhao Zhou and Yuxing Chen)
Research Associate, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (Advisor: Dinshaw Patel)

Research Summary:

Biological molecules, which include proteins, DNA, RNA, fats, and sugars called polysaccharides, are typically very large molecules made up of many atoms, and as such, are very difficult to describe at the level of individual atoms. To solve this problem, Ning Jia, PhD, uses a combination of structural biology techniques including cryogenic electron microscopy (cryoEM), x-ray crystallography, and enzymatic studies to elucidate the structural features and biochemical mechanisms that govern the function of these important biological systems. Jia is particularly interested in a group of biological molecules called CRISPR-Cas complexes, which have recently gained much attention due to their ability to edit and modify genes.

CRISPR-Cas complexes are a collection of biological molecules that were originally discovered in bacteria as defense mechanisms to protect against viruses. Made up of DNA or RNA and enzymes, these complexes have gained widespread acceptance as gene-editing tools in the cells found in plants and animals, including humans. Gene-editing systems, like CRISPR-Cas, hold great potential as treatments for patients with genetic disorders, or as diagnostic tools, but intimate knowledge of the molecular structures of these complexes is crucial. Jia’s experiments should provide key structural information that can be used to better understand these systems and unlock the true potential of CRISPR-Cas as a gene-editing tool.

If you want to have a career in the sciences, you have to enjoy science. Then, you will love spending your time on it. My advisor Dinshaw Patel is a mentor for me, because his continuous passion in science inspires me. Even at age 78, his passion for science has never faded.

Key Publications:

  1. A.J. Meeske*, N. Jia*, A.K. Cassel, A. Kozlova, J. Liao, M. Wiedmann, D.J. Patel, L.A. Marraffini. A phage-encoded anti-CRISPR enables complete evasion of type VI-A CRISPR-Cas immunity. Science, 2020. (*equal contribution)

  2. N. Jia, W. Xie, M. J. de la Cruz, E. T. Eng, D. J. Patel. Structure-function insights into the initial step of DNA integration by a CRISPR-Cas-Transposon complex. Cell Research, 2020.

  3. N. Jia, C. Y. Mo, C. Wang, L. A. Marraffini, D. J. Patel. Type III-A CRISPER-Cas Csm complexes: assembly, periodic RNA cleavage, DNAse activity regulation and autoimmunity. Molecular Cell, 2019.

  4. N. Jia, R. Jones, G. Sukenick, D. J. Patel. Second messenger cA4 formation within the composite Csm1 palm pocket of type III-A CRISPRCas Csm complex and Its release path. Molecular Cell, 2019.

  5. N. Jia, R. Jones, G. Yang, O. Ouerfelli, D. J. Patel. CRISPR-Cas III-A Csm6 CARF domain is a ring nuclease triggering stepwise cA4 cleavage with ApA>p formation terminating RNase activity. Molecular Cell, 2019.

Other Honors:

2015Caisi Scholarship for Outstanding Students
2009China National Scholarship
2007China National Scholarship