CRISPR-based Approaches to Food Safety and Animal Health

Cattle grazing in a field

Available for Licensing
TRL: 4

IP Status

US Utility Patent Pending (Not Yet Published)


Hua Yang
Keith E. Belk

At A Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a novel antimicrobial intervention for selective killing of bacterial pathogens in animal production and food products. CRISPR-Cas9 technology is utilized to target harmful foodborne illness causing bacteria. This novel, highly specific approach can serve as an alternative to traditional broad-spectrum antimicrobials and is applicable in beef and other meat producing industries where infections from foodborne pathogens are a persistent food safety hazard.

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Licensing Director

Jillian Lang

Reference No.:  2019-115


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2010, foodborne illnesses affected 600 million people and caused 420,000 deaths globally [7].  In the United States, 47.8 million cases of foodborne illness are estimated to occur annually with 127,839 hospitalizations and 3,037 deaths [4].

Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an important cause of foodborne illness in humans that frequently result in hospitalization [2]. Estimated global cases of E. coli infections are just under 2.5 million, causing 269 deaths [7]. Outbreaks linked to these pathogens have been associated with various foods, mainly fresh produce and beef and other ruminant animal meats [1],[5].

Technology Overview

This invention uses a phage-mediated system for the efficient delivery of CRISPR-Cas9-based antimicrobials into bacterial cells for sequence specific elimination of pathogenic E. coli. The selective killing of target pathogens leaves the remaining healthy microbiome intact and reduces the need for traditional antimicrobials. While this work has been done in E. coli¸ the platform could be adapted for other important pathogens. This technology is envisioned to not only treat livestock but could also be used in meat production facilities to prevent pathogenic bacteria from proliferating, as well as decrease the prevalence antibiotic resistance in ruminant livestock.

  • Gene targeted removal of bacterial populations eliminates widespread antibiotic use in food production systems
  • Selective destruction of harmful bacteria protects non-target bacterial populations, encouraging a healthy microbiome
  • Highly programmable and tunable
  • Novel method able to target and kill antibiotic resistant bacteria along the food production chain
  • Use could prevent the development of antibiotic resistance
  • Highly specific alternative antimicrobials in in food and animal production
  • Yang , Hua, et al. “Sequence-Specific Removal of STECs via CRISPR-Cas9 System.Meat Science Review , 20 Feb. 2018,,such%20as%20viruses%20and%20plasmids.

Last updated: May 2022

Add keywords or various names of inventors here (text is hidden)

CRISPR, alternative to antibiotics, antimicrobial, biotechnology, food safety, meat safety, biosafety, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Salmonella, antibiotic resistance, microbiome editing, immunization, animal health, animal performance, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), American Meat Science Association (AMSA) / E. coli / meat science review / pathogen reduction strategies / pathogens / STEC