Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and The Wistar Institute Partner to Expand Research in Gene Editing

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To accelerate breakthrough cancer research in the human genome, the Gene Editing Institute at Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute has entered into an agreement with The Wistar Institute. The agreement expands the historic partnership between the Graham Cancer Center, one of the nation’s largest community cancer centers, and Wistar, the nation’s first National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center dedicated solely to biomedical research. Established in 2011, the partnership was the first-ever interinstitutional affiliation between an NCI-designated basic research institution and a community cancer center.

In this partnership, the Gene Editing Institute will be integrated into Wistar’s Molecular Screening Facility, which will allow its innovative gene-editing technologies to be made available to research projects at Wistar and to external users. The Gene Editing Institute will retain its management structure and will remain located at the Graham Cancer Center on the Christiana Hospital Campus in Newark, Delaware. The Molecular Screening Facility will remain housed at Wistar in Philadelphia.

Unlocking Genetic Mechanisms

Eric Kmiec, PhD

Eric Kmiec, PhD

Under the direction of molecular biologist Eric Kmiec, PhD, the Gene Editing Institute is unlocking the genetic mechanisms that drive cancer, potentially leading to revolutionary new therapies. Through funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and private foundations, the Gene Editing Institute utilizes the next generation of precision genetic tools, including CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) and TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases), which manipulate and control genetic material.

In a breakthrough discovery, researchers at the Gene Editing Institute found that combining CRISPRs and single-stranded DNA oligodeoxynucleotides (short strands of synthetic DNA) greatly enhances precision and reliability in editing the human genome. With this combination, researchers are better able to identify and develop innovative therapies to revolutionize cancer treatment.

Collaborative Research

“Gene editing is rapidly becoming one of the most dominant and impactful techniques in biomedical research today,” said Dr. Kmiec. “The Gene Editing Institute provides an important core function and expertise in collaborative work with scientists at The ­Wistar Institute, who continue to maintain state-of-the-art research programs in cancer.”

He added, “Combining our research groups creates a powerful and innovative team with complementary biomedical skill sets that will accelerate the discovery of novel, therapeutic regimens in the treatment of many types of cancer.” The two organizations have already begun scientific collaborations involving research on melanoma and lung cancer.

The Wistar Institute Molecular Screening Facility is a shared resource accessible to Wistar and non-Wistar scientists. The facility enables investigators to apply cutting-edge technology and unique resources to discover molecular, genetic, and small molecule compounds suitable to further study the functions of poorly understood proteins, signaling pathways, and cells in complex biologic processes relevant to human physiology and disease. ■




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