CRISPR in a Box, ChristianaCare Gene Editing Institute’s innovative educational toolkit, has now hit high school science classes. And the first in the U.S. to use it is Middletown’s own St. Georges Technical High School.
Beginning in 2017 with a National Science Foundation grant, ChristianaCare partnered with Delaware Technical and Community College and Rockland Immunochemicals to develop the first-ever gene editing curriculum for community college students. The CRISPR in a Box initiative has a broad goal of supporting STEM education in public schools and community colleges.
But it also aims to get Black students on the high school and college level involved in sickle cell disease as researchers, in an effort to build trust in the CRISPR gene editing technology that some, including Dr. Eric Kmiec, director of the ChristianaCare Gene Editing Institute (GEI), believe is the key to curing the potentially fatal disease that primarily affects people of African ancestry.
“Gene editing is the future of medicine,” Dr. Kmiec said in a statement. “Our partnership with the Delaware Department of Education will help cultivate the next generation of genetic scientists and enhance Delaware’s position as a leader in the biosciences.”
The experiment at St. Georges, led by biotech teacher Danya Espadas, involves editing a noninfectious E.coli bacteria gene so it becomes resistant to an antibiotic, a technique that allows researchers to create new classes of antibiotics.
“We are so fortunate that ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute reached out to our program to plan a high school ‘first’ opportunity with this new CRISPR experiment,” Espadas said. “Giving students the chance to use a cutting-edge, 21st century tool for medicine in their own high school lab — to have that technology at their fingertips — transcends what they see in a textbook or a video. By being able to do it themselves, it makes it real for them.”
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