Christiana Care, Del Tech develop gene editing education program

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A cutting-edge gene editing technology is coming to college classrooms in Delaware, thanks to a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to Delaware Technical Community College in partnership with the Gene Editing Institute of Christiana Care and its Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

The NSF Advanced Technical Education (ATE) grant will support the development of a gene-editing curriculum for community college students.

Students will learn how to use leading-edge biomedical research tools that are transforming our understanding of human genetics and accelerating development of genetically based therapies for human diseases, including cancer, a release stated.

A handful of schools in the country teach gene editing techniques in the laboratory to undergraduates.

Leading the grant are Christiana Care’s Gene Editing Institute Director Eric Kmiec, Ph.D and Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., and John McDowell, Ph.D., a faculty member who teaches biology and biotechnology at Delaware Tech.

“The NSF grant demonstrates Dr. Kmiec’s commitment not only to cancer research but to educating the next generation of scientists,” said Nicholas Petrelli, Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at Christiana Care.

“The NSF award clearly places us at the forefront of gene editing education,” said Dr. Kmiec. “I believe we are among the first ever to transform a research tool used for years in our laboratory into a teaching tool that can be used in the undergraduate curriculum.”

Delaware Tech President Mark T. Brainard stated, “The partnership between the Gene Editing Institute and Delaware Tech is an exciting opportunity to combine the talents of the research laboratory headed by Dr. Kmiec with the teaching expertise of instructors at Delaware Tech. Through the network of schools that participate in our workshops, we will be able to disseminate emerging techniques in gene editing.”

NSF grants for ATE are awarded to community colleges to build and strengthen programs that train graduates to enter critical job markets.

The gene editing grant will train research technicians in a variety of gene editing techniques, including working with human cells, for jobs in high-technology fields.

The idea for the project grew from the educational missions of both partnering institutions.

“In Delaware, the majority of the bioscience majors continue their education at the University of Delaware before entering the workforce,” McDowell stated. “Learning mammalian tissue culture and gene editing techniques at the undergraduate level at Delaware Tech will position students who go on to study bioscience at UD to be more competitive for academic advancement and ultimately for employment upon graduation.”

The Gene Editing Institute of Christiana Care Health System’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute is a leader in personalized genetic medicine.

Founded and led by Kmiec, the Gene Editing Institute is unlocking the genetic mechanisms that drive cancer and that can lead to new therapies and pharmaceuticals to revolutionize cancer treatment, as well as providing instruction in the design and implementation of genetic tools. Gene editing in lung cancer research has already begun so that clinical trials can be initiated. The Gene Editing Institute is integrated into the Molecular Screening Facility at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

Delaware Tech – the First State’s only community college – offers academic, technical, community education, and workforce development comprising more than 100 associate degrees, diploma and certificate programs. For more information about Delaware Tech, visit www.dtcc.edu.

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