Campus & community, People, Profiles

Student Anish Iyyavoo on using gene editing to treat cancer

After his grandma was diagnosed with cancer, the first-year student was inspired to learn about how to use gene editing as a tool for cancer research and treatment

portrait of a person smiling outside by a tree

Anish Iyyavoo is a first-year student from San Jose, California. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

This Q&A is part of a series of new student profiles for our 2022 back-to-school coverage. Have someone you think we should write about? Contact [email protected].

Berkeley News: What year are you, and where are you from?

I’m a first-year student from San Jose, California.

What are you interested in studying?

I’m a bioengineering major and maybe a sociology double major. I’m really interested in gene editing — how we can use computer science and machine learning to improve gene design and gene editing. I’m also really interested in the socioeconomic causes of health disparities.

Why did you decide to attend UC Berkeley?

I really like Berkeley. I like the campus so much. I’m really such a huge fan of the bioengineering department and the biology department, especially the research they’re doing right now. This is obviously where CRISPR was founded, so the Doudna Lab was a big draw. It’s so incredible, what’s happening here.

What inspired you to learn about gene editing?

My grandma has cancer, and it made me think a lot about genetics and how certain genetic mutations cause cancer. So, I started looking into gene editing and how it can be used as a tool for cancer research and treatment.

What ways have you already been involved with gene editing research?

There’s a competition called iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) that I have been a part of. It’s a worldwide synthetic biology competition for high school and university students, as well as entrepreneurs and community labs. They do a lot of projects related to gene editing. Berkeley has an iGEM club. I’ve also been involved with an organization called the Open Insulin Project, which gene edits yeast and E. coli to produce insulin for really cheap.

What is your dream job? What career do you plan to pursue after you graduate?

I’m planning on applying to medical school. I really want to apply to physician scientist programs, which are combined M.D. and Ph.D. programs. Those programs are eight years long. That’s what I want to be doing: treating patients, helping people, but also working on research in my own lab.